Friday, December 24, 2010

HoHoHo And Unruly Reindeer...

Every year since we've been together, Big Daddy and I have had our picture taken with Santa. This year we decided to be the Santas. It was fun, but maybe we should have stuck to the old  tradition. I never realized how unruly reindeer can be, as well as Santa hats, etc.

Merry Christmas from Le Rustique! And many thanks to UncleL for loaning us the vintage Santa outfits that have been in that family for years. (BTW, Big Daddy refused to be "the fat Santa" and wear the pillow or the beard.)

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like...

Christmas! For the first time in years, we've decorated a real tree. We've always had a festive look to the city house by using a Santa collection, lots of ornaments, Nativity scenes, etc., just no tree. Since we're spending the holidays at Le Rustique this year, it felt only natural to add a tree. And this guy was the most likely candidate.

We've decided that the old corral/holding pen adjacent to the barn will be a great location for a garden. This tree, along with the rest of the debris, has to go. 

So Big Daddy begins the process of clearing the bottom branches in order to save the top 8' for the house. 

And now his favorite sport at Le Rustique - running the chain saw. 

All loaded up into the Mule for its ride to destiny. 

Or maybe this is Big Daddy's favorite sport at Le Rustique - driving the Mule.  

Oops! Too tall.

A little trimming is required. Alas, no chain saw necessary.

Ah, perfect. Who says Red Cedar doesn't make a good Christmas tree?
[Sidebar: Note the rough remainder of the wall that was removed last month. Now the decision must be made whether to fill the house with plaster dust to remove this last two inches, which includes 2x4's and heavy wire mesh, or whether to box it in. Why can't anything be easy?]
 And the bling begins...

That was then, and this is now at first light...  little bitty snow flakes turning to big, fluffy snowflakes. #1Son,  FaveDIL and canine Bumpers arrived from parts East last night, so they're safely tucked in. Here's hoping we don't get too much more snow before #1Daughter, FaveSIL and Bumpers are able to come out on Christmas day. But it is pretty and peaceful, isn't it?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On the Fence...

We have a simple bird feeder hanging outside our kitchen window, and I've taken photos through the blinds of many cardinals, a Cooper's hawk that used to visit, and even somebody's lost parakeet. But this is the first woodpecker we've seen in our courtyard in the city. He's obviously not used to landing on a bird feeder, but Big Daddy was able to capture this picture while the little guy was otherwise distracted. He looks to me like he's asking directions of the non-responsive bird in the mirror - or maybe he's telling himself what a handsome bird he's become.

I'm not sure whether you can see the red on the back of his head, but it's quite distinctive. He's not as big as this one that we spotted at Le Rustique,

so I doubt he followed us in from the farm. I recently read that woodpeckers especially need suet to replace their summer diet of insects, but we noticed this morning that the squirrels have completely cleaned us out of that. If he hangs around for a couple days, I'll go get him some more.

And, geez, it looks like I need to increase the resolution on my camera before posting any more wildlife shots. My apologies.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

This is love...

While I was busy doing this...

Big Daddy was busy doing this...

I LOVE a man who can cook! This tasted even better than it looks, and the smell coming from the oven was even better than that. Under the barbeque sauce and jalapeno peppers, those are the leanest loin chops I've ever seen. They went well with beans, onions and garlic (lots of onions & garlic!) in this one-skillet meal.  And to think the man behind the dinner could only make lasagna and "gorp" when I met him. (That gorp's a story all unto itself, and someday I'll share it.)

Now it's time to pack all those prezzies into a knapsack for a trip out to the farm.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I Want This Color!

I want this color! Why do the paint companies and the fabric/yarn companies think that all oranges are  so ORANGE? And why do they think that yellow either resembles a TAXI CAB or a LEMON? I want this color instead!

One of the guest bedrooms at LeRustique is a mix of gray, white, ivory and light, buttery yellow. I've been looking for months for an acceptable fabric for toss pillows and draperies to tie everything together. But because I don't want toddler primary yellow or school bus yellow, the room still has the 1970's version of blue and burgundy stripes that were in the room when we bought the place. I just want a nice mango/orange yellow (like the mango and orange in the picture) fabric and paint to punch up the buttery yellow matelasse spreads on the twin beds.

I even brought home a whole slew of those paint color strips from several manufacturers, and there wasn't one in the bunch that matched this hue. I want to sit on that color board that decides exactly what shades of green, blue, gray, etc., we're going to fall in love with next season. Why don't they just call me?

Monday, December 6, 2010

It's Soup Season...

Big Daddy's radio came on this morning just as the local NPR announcer was telling us, "It's 18-degrees outside, feels like 6-degrees with the wind chill, and we're expecting only some sunshine with a high of 27-degrees."

Yipes! I hate cold weather. It's the main reason I moved away from my beloved Rocky Mountains twenty-five years ago. The only good things I can say about winter:  it's no longer muggy-humid like August; it's soup season.

I love making soup, and there's usually a pot full of it in our house most days between the first of December and end of February. Last week I made a rustic sweet potato soup. And last night I started thinking about what kind of soup to make today when I remembered the outstanding tortilla soup I had at Mi Tierra last month while visiting a friend in San Antonio. In fact, the memory of that taste-treat sensation made me get out the soup pot right then. And, voila, this was breakfast.

BTW, if you're going to be in San Antonio anytime this month, check out Mi Tierra's Christmas decorations. They are outrageously big and beautiful! That's a real violin hanging amongst the ornaments, and what you can't see in this photo are the full-sized mariachi sombreros all around this tree. And all year long, the whole huge restaurant is full of lights hanging from every inch of the ceiling. Don't miss it!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Crops & Cocktails...

To pears and wild persimmons, we can now add turnips to the crops harvested at LeRustique.

Of course we planned none of them. The Bosc pears were from a tree planted by the previous owners, and we nearly cut it down last spring when the little fruit nubbins looked like crab apples. The wild persimmons were a found treasure we accidentally stumbled upon after all the leaves dropped, and we're delighted to report that we have a whole grove of them.

The turnip came from an acre of pasture land we paid a local farmer named Simon to plant as food crop for the wild turkeys and deer that roam freely around our place. Simon told us that, if the turkeys left us any, turnips are good eats when harvested young and sauteed simply in olive oil. Tomorrow morning, we're heading back down there to find a few more so we can saute them for breakfast and check it out for ourselves. Of course, we'll add a bunch of garlic and cracked pepper, because that's how we eat most everything.

This afternoon before dusk, Big Daddy wrangled me and the dogs for an impromptu cocktail party down by the waterfall. A huge pear, a chunk of cheese, some crackers and a bottle of champagne made for a nice end to our version of a farm workday.

That's Lazy, aka Dusty The Trail Dog, in the background just before she realized there was food a little higher up. Before long even Crazy, aka The Princess of Poop (because she only poops where a princess would poop), joined the party to show off her new white sweater.

Just after this picture was taken, she made a sneaky right turn and snagged herself a big-girl sized piece of cheese off the "tablecloth" - which she was delighted to find at her height, finally.

And now, back at the farm house, Big Daddy is grilling some fresh asparagus and wild salmon - neither of which are crops from LeRustique, but I'm guessing they'll go just fine with cocktails.  Bon Appetit!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving... Tardy As Usual

Okay, so I'm a little tardy posting about our day, but it took a little while to recover. We went to our place at LeRustique, and even though our kids and bumpers were sadly unable to make it this year, we had Gma Glo, Aunt S and Uncle L. Gma Glo is a powerful personality, and when she gathers her eldest (Big Daddy) and her youngest (Aunt S) in an enclosed space for an extended period, no telling what family dynamic is going to prevail. And there were plenty of "dynamics" to go around. Every time things got a little edgy, though, Uncle L would make us all laugh by saying in an announcer's voice, "Because that's what families do." You had to be there, but it really did work.

Big Daddy took on the responsibility for doing up the turkey on the Weber grill. Since he's the kind of guy who adheres to the Livin' Large world order, he tried to put twenty pounds of stuff in a thirteen-pound bird..

But overstuffed or not, we had no problem digging into this...

All's well that ends well, and we did have a good time. I think Big Daddy took a few more two-handed pinochle games from his Ma than she took from him, and I know I never won a single game when they coerced me into playing three-handed. Wisely, Aunt S and Uncle L avoid the family pasttime, so they stayed busy making sure we had good roaring fires upstairs and down to keep us warm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

More Pears...

Big Daddy came to bed last night saying he was already dreaming of roasted pears for breakfast. Since that doesn't require messing with flour, and since this morning felt chillier than I like, I turned on the oven and started fixing some pears. I never make these exactly the same way, but these are pretty typical. Instead of maple syrup, walnuts and hazelnuts, today I just heated some ginger & orange marmalade. Here's what they looked like just before going in the oven:

Note the cracked pepper - call me crazy, but I've always liked a little pepper on a pear.

And here's what they looked like all served up for breakfast:

And that's enough about pears - at least until Big Daddy successfully produces a sampling of pear liqueur.

Pear Pie ... Oh, My!

Last spring Big Daddy and I bought some land out in the country that we call Le Rustique. Even though it's a little over a hundred acres that used to be part of a bigger family farm, I hesitate to call the place a farm since a good eighty percent of it is woods with a large variety of trees. One of those trees not too far from the house is a big old pear tree, and I've watched the fruit grow over the summer from something that looked like tiny crab apples to some pretty big speckled pears. Since my mom's no longer alive to consult, I had to do a little research myself. Come to find out, it's a Bosc pear tree - somewhat unusual for Missouri, and most often grown in Oregon and Washington.

Although I had no idea what to do with the bumper crop of pears from that one tree, I couldn't resist picking bags and boxes of them to share with city friends. Finally, when I ran out of friends, I decided to make a pear pie - only to discover that nobody's ever heard of a pear pie. But I figured if one could make an apple pie, why not a pear pie? Especially a Bosc pear pie, since the fruit is dense and crispy. And since we're not especially fond of sweet desserts, I decided to dream up my own version of a pear pie with onions and fresh-grated ginger. I made what I call my French Rustic Crust with white cheddar cheese, added my pears with minimal filling, and to make sure nobody expected to bite into a super sweet pie, I grated pepper on top of it.  And voila!  Pear Pie, oh my!
Someday when I run out of blog topics, I'll share some of my "Flour Hates Me" stories.  But for now, I'm off to find some half-gallon jars so Big Daddy can create his own Pear Liqueur with some of the excess product.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Rolling Thunder

Late last Saturday night and again Sunday morning we were awakened by loud, crashing thunder. You know, the kind that seems to roll across the sky with a bravado that vibrates your bones. I’ve always relished that sound. My mind conjures the metaphysical “happy hunting grounds” of Native Americans with warriors in a huge circle, many drummers deep, matching their drumbeats to the rhythm of stampeding buffalo. Sometimes you can hear the thunder roll its way farther off into the distance before its sound fades away. And sometimes it just stops.

Earlier Saturday I felt a different kind of rolling thunder, but one just as powerful. I rode my big-girl Harley for the first time in a while.  No matter how short the ride, nor the intended destination, riding always leaves me feeling exhilarated. The sound, the vibration, the horsepower, the maneuverability, and the fresh air all lend themselves to a sense of freedom unmatched by driving a car. And there is a reason a motorcycle is called an iron horse.  For one, you sit a motorcycle just like a horse. The slightest movement of your knees up or down, in or out, brings about the desired response in animal or machine. And as you get up to highway speeds on the motorcycle, you get the same sensation as being on horseback at full gallop.

Once when I was riding out in the country on a straight, but hilly terrain with the only other vehicle in sight being my husband on his bike up ahead, I actually heard the sound of a herd of horses galloping alongside me. Startled, I looked all around, but there was nothing to see but bucolic farm land and the undulating ribbon of up-and-down highway in front of us. The hoofbeats continued, and when I slowed down, they slowed. When I would speed up, they would too. At first I thought I was hallucinating, but soon I just relaxed into what became an intense spiritual experience. There were many of those experiences to follow, but every single time I ride my motorcycle, I sense the presence of that herd of horses thundering alongside.

          Now due to changes we’re making in our lives, I’ve decided it’s time to sell my beloved motorcycle. This may have been my last ride on that bike, and if so Saturday’s ride will resemble the thunder that rolled into the distance and faded away. But if I do happen to ride it one more time, then at the end of that ride I’ll pull into the garage and embody the thunder that just stops.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why A Blog? And Why Now?

For many years I sent personal e-mails to those we love all across the country just to stay in touch. Sometimes I couldn't remember from week to week which family members I had shared what with, and occasionally someone felt left out if they weren't made aware of something that others knew. I could sympathize, since we often felt left out when we'd hear after the fact about trips our kids had taken, milestones our grandkids had reached, or other newsy events. So a few years ago, I decided to send a weekly e-mail to everyone at once. My intention was for all to get the same details, but my overriding hope was that everyone else would do the same, thus keeping the entire circle equally informed and feeling a little closer.

Those regular "Monday in St. Louis" notes were sometimes short, only a few sentences, and sometimes way too long. A few elicited comments from several recipients, while some others were probably deleted before being read through to the end. All were composed with love, and while they worked to let others know what we were up to, they failed to create the round-robin communication I had hoped for. So sometime this spring I just stopped writing them. But I'm a writer at heart, and writers have to write.

Thus this blog - Grits & Graffiti. Since I'm just posting and not sending it, family and friends can read it or ignore it. And since it's meant to scratch my writing itch, I'll go beyond merely recapping or announcing events in our lives. If you choose to follow it, you'll never know what the topic will be, but I'll try to sidestep the yawns. And please feel free to comment, although I retain the right to pre-screen your posts - more to respect privacy and preclude spamming than to exercise any particular power of censure.