Saturday, April 28, 2012

The "morel" of the story; the mushrooms are gone

Last year's "dry-land fish"
In my hometown of Irvine, we celebrate the mushroom hunting season, a rite of spring for many here in the foothills of Kentucky, by throwing a big ol’ festival dedicated to morels. 
We call it the Mountain Mushroom Festival, and festivities include a “Fungus 5K,” a parade, lots of entertainment, vendors, a car show, an antique tractor show, a rock and mineral show…and much more. 

One of the main attractions is the mushroom market where local morel hunters can bring in their finds and sell them.  A prize is also awarded for the biggest morel. 

When I stopped by the market this afternoon, only one morel had been brought in, and it was partly dried up.  

“Dry-land fish,” as some of us call them, are typically springing up by the dozens out in the woods this time of year. 

However, spring came very early this year, then April turned dry.

Dry is not the best condition for growing “the fungus among us.”     
This is the 22nd year for the festival, but it’s the first one I can recall that there were few or no morels to sell at the market.  

My hubby and I went hunting for them twice, and he found one small ‘shroom.  I found mushrooms, but not morels.  I wasn’t sure if they were edible or not. 

I’m ready for next year, though.  Today I bought a field guide to identify lots of varieties of edible wild mushrooms, and I bought a bumper sticker that says, “Stay out of my morel patch.” 

I’m just hoping that next year, I’ll have a morel patch.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Simple strawberry shortcake

One of the advantages of an early spring is that strawberries get ripe sooner.

Chelsea and I picked a gallon or so this afternoon.  We ate a few handfuls straight from the patch, then I made old-fashioned strawberry shortcake with some of what was left.

I like this shortcake recipe.  Pound cake or even just a plain ol’ yellow cake is good with strawberries, but often the sweetness of those cakes makes the berries taste too tangy. 

This shortcake, however, is like a lightly sweetened biscuit, so the sweet of the cake doesn’t overpower the fruit. 

Here’s the recipe I used. I think heavy cream would have been good poured over it all, but I didn’t have any, so I used the whipped cream in the can.  For a little bit of a citrus kick, I spooned a couple of tablespoons of that lemon balm syrup that I made last week over it all…Yummy! 
Click here for a classic strawberry shortcake recipe.
This is how you'll feel after you've had some. 

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Blackberry winter" day warmed by good news

Brrrrr…it’s chilly in central Kentucky today!  Old-timers would probably say this is “blackberry winter,” because it’s cold and the blackberries are in bloom. 

Around here, any cold snap that coincides with a bloom time has a “winter” named after it. 

I think redbud winter got lost in March, and if we had a dogwood winter, it wasn’t much. 

But today has been cool and overcast--blackberries are blooming—a good day for sleeping late and sliding into the church pew after the congregational singing had already commenced, a good day for eating a bowl of chili for lunch, taking a brisk walk in the brisk wind, and enjoying a cup of hot cocoa afterwards.

I don’t mind days like this every now and then, especially when our daughter calls and says the baby is having his best post-op day yet!  She got to hold him (first time since surgery), and he’s been able to tolerate a significant morphine wean.  He’s been tolerating tiny feeds well, too. 

Yay!  Finally some good news—news that can warm any kind of “winter” day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

I'm trying to get back on track...

OK, I’m completely off track…I’ve missed nearly a week of posts. This is the third month I had committed to Nablopomo, and the first time I’ve failed to stick with it and post daily. 

Sometimes, though, the mind is just too preoccupied to force onto tracks it doesn’t want to go—or can’t stay on if it tried. 

Last November was the first time I tried Nablopomo, and some of you may remember that my husband and I had just become grandparents of a baby boy born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia at that time. 

I blogged faithfully all through the first month of little Clay’s life when he was so seriously ill.  We honestly didn’t know if he’d make it at times. 

He did though, and he grew and thrived for the next few months, although he was not able to transition off the hospital ventilator on to a home vent. 

Just a couple of days short of his fifth month birthday, his momma—our daughter—had just bought him a new play mat.  They spread it out on the hospital floor, in the corner of nursery eight where Clay has spent his entire life.  Clay kicked and smiled and seemed to enjoy his new toy so much.  Surely, we thought, he’s about ready to come home.   

The next day, however, Clay became extremely sick.  An x-ray was ordered, but there was no sign of reherniation, the fear that is ever-present in the minds of those close to CDH babies.  A culture revealed that Clay had a urinary tract infection. 

Still, that didn’t explain why he acted so frantic and like he was in such pain.  Several hours later, a second x-ray revealed that Clay had indeed reherniated.  It looked like his stomach and some of his bowel had migrated back into his chest cavity. 

The shock of the reherniation and the infection nearly got the best of our Clay.  Within a couple of days, our little guy was again paralyzed by drugs, the vent breathing for him, tubes and drips everywhere.

To make a long story short, after more than three weeks, Clay was determined stable enough to withstand another surgery.  Last Tuesday, doctors performed the second hernia repair, which took about four and a half hours.

These past few days, my mind has been everywhere but on my blog.  I have found it very hard to think of anything but our little grandson and the suffering he is enduring. Not only does he hurt physically, but he’s almost six months old now.  He has enough awareness of what’s going on around him to feel dread and fear now.  Knowing that makes this round harder than the first one, I think. 

Naturally, I worry a lot about his momma too.  Her birthday was just a couple of days ago, and I couldn’t help but compare her first experience with motherhood to mine, which was so much simpler.  I never imagined then the path that was ahead for her—for us.

Clay’s beginning to come around some since his surgery, but he has a long road ahead of him to complete recovery.  

Forgive me if I don’t post every single day--sometimes my mind and emotions are just too spent to concentrate. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

My Easter

Praises: for God’s unlimited grace and the first resurrection.

On the menu today: baked ham and turkey breast, dressing, potato salad, hash brown casserole, green bean casserole, plain ol’ home-grown green beans, corn, garden salad, baked beans, brownies and creamy coconut cake. 

For dessert: the company of family and friends—including about a half dozen of the canine variety. 

Random bonuses: grass so green it glows, friendly warm sunlight, sweet breezes, blue sky, happy sparkling streams, sweet smells of wild phlox and smoke from a bonfire.   

Only thing missing: our little Clay-bug….........but next year…!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Coconut cake is a family favorite for Easter

Spring days don’t get much prettier than this one.  What perfect weather for everything outdoors--from egg hunts to weddings!

We spent our day planting potatoes and attending a funeral, but blue skies and green grass made a sad day much more tolerable.

I hope tomorrow is just as bright for all the Easter activities.  I’m anticipating a big family dinner and watching some little ones hunt for hidden eggs.

I’m looking forward to this cake, too.  I’ve made it on Easter for years, and it’s a family favorite.  Besides being delicious, it’s super easy!

Moist and Creamy Coconut Cake

1 pkg. yellow cake mix

1 ½ cups milk

½ cup sugar

2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

8 oz. container of Cool Whip, thawed

Prepare cake mix as directed on package, baking in 13 x 9-inch pan.  Cool 15 minutes; poke holes through cake with a fork.  Combine milk, sugar and ½ cup of coconut in saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 1 minute.  Spoon over warm cake, allowing liquid to soak down through holes.  Cool completely.  Fold ½ cup of the coconut into Cool whip and spread over cake.  Sprinkle with remaining coconut.  Chill overnight…then eat up! 

Friday, April 6, 2012

One of my favorite poems, by Jane Gentry

Under the fluorescent sun
inside the Kroger, it is always
southern California. Hard avocados
rot as they ripen from the center out.
Tomatoes granulate inside their hides.
But by the parking lot, a six-tree orchard
frames a cottage where winter has set in.

Pork fat seasons these rooms.
The wood range spits and hisses,
limbers the oilcloth on the table
where an old man and an old woman
draw the quarter-moons of their nails,
shadowed still with dirt,
across the legend of seed catalogues.

Each morning he milks the only goat
inside the limits of Versailles. She feeds
a rooster that wakes up all the neighbors.
Through dark afternoons and into night
they study the roses' velvet mouths
and the apples' bright skins
that crack at the first bite.

When thaw comes, the man turns up
the sod and, on its underside, ciphers
roots and worms. The sun like an angel
beats its wings above their grubbing.
Evenings on the viny porch they rock,
discussing clouds, the chance of rain.
Husks in the dark dirt fatten and burst.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Remembering Uncle Bill

I’m drinking orange spice tea tonight and thinking about my Uncle Bill who passed away in the wee hours of the morning.  He’d been very sick for about a week, but I don’t think anyone expected him to go so soon.

I have dozens of good memories of my red-headed uncle. Although he was 77 years old, his hair still had plenty of red in it. I guess that’s where my youngest brother, my sister and I get our auburn hair—from Uncle Bill and one of our aunts.  Dad and all the rest of his eight siblings had dark hair. 

Like so many of us Arvins, Uncle Bill loved food.  He loved to cook, and he loved to eat, too.  Whenever or wherever we had the opportunity to visit, the conversation would always turn to good things to eat. 

 If you were lucky enough to have dinner at his house, well, you were pretty lucky. My mouth waters at the thought of the fresh green beans and garden tomatoes he’d prepare straight from his garden. 

I can remember being at his and Alice’s house in late summer and how his tomato plants would still be green and prolific when everyone else’s were dried up.

Uncle Bill never seemed to get in a hurry, particularly when it came time to plant tomatoes, but he still managed to grow some of the prettiest big ol’ tomatoes before frost. 

Uncle Bill was a big fan of bluegrass music.  I think maybe that’s how he and Alice met.  When they first got married, they attended a lot of bluegrass music festivals together.  I’ve heard it said that Uncle Bill liked to sing and that he had a high tenor voice, although I don’t recall ever hearing him sing.  I know he didn’t care much at all for modern country music.

I remember him telling of “going around the mountain” with a couple of the Fox boys from Drip Rock when they were all young, and how they stopped to listen to some old fellow play the banjo or fiddle—I can’t remember which.   He said he was so moved by the music that he “just had to dance.” 

“Jovial” is a good way to describe Uncle Bill.  He liked to talk about his garden, cooking, and after he retired from the state highway department, he liked to talk about the long Sunday drives he and Alice would take.  He’d tell us all about their vacations to Bronson and other places too. 

We camped one time at his recommendation at Bee Rock in Rockcastle County.  I remember us taking a hike and coming across a big black snake stretched across a trail.  I don’t know who was more jittery afterwards—me or Alice.

Dad used to tell us a story about how Uncle Bill “pulled a prank” on one of their dogs.  He chased it with a stuffed red plush dog, and the real dog took off down the road like he was a scalded one. 

That stuffed toy sat on a shelf collecting dust for decades in the old general store that my grandfather once operated.  Whenever we stripped tobacco in that old store, Dad would tell us the story of “Bo Wo Bill.” 

Only a couple of years separated my dad and Uncle Bill in age, but I always found it amusing how different they are in personality.  My dad is quiet and reserved, and doesn’t enjoy being in the spotlight.  Uncle Bill, on the other hand, was louder and more talkative, and I don’t think it bothered him in the least to get noticed.

Uncle Bill really enjoyed coming to the family reunions we host here every fall.  He’s one of many who once lived right here in the same old house where we live today.  He was usually the first guest to arrive on reunion Sundays, and he’d come bearing a couple of delicious dishes and a gallon of sweet orange spice tea.  Tonight I’m having a cup in his honor. 

I pray you rest in peace, Uncle Bill. We love you and we’re sure going to miss you.   

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We've recently made two trips into the woods looking for morels...and we've found exactly one 'shroom. 

But I have seen...

This pretty little white trillium...

 ...some sweet smelling phlox...
 ... trees with their hands lifted in praise toward the heavens...
 ...a lowly, though lovely, dandelion...

  and a kazillion of these maple tree seeds.  They look like bunches of miniature helicopters as they fly off the trees. 

Oh, how I wish morels were as plentiful as maple tree seeds!   

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

"Death Be Not Proud"

My family has been dealing with a lot of illness lately, so I’m taking comfort in this very old poem by John Donne, titled “Death Be Not Proud.” Definitely no silly ditty, this poem bears weight; serious, yet triumphant, it is particularly appropriate for the upcoming Easter season.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;” Donne insists.

Donne concludes the poem with a powerful reassurance: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally / And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

No, this poem isn’t exactly cheery, but it does renew my hope. 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Life's a...Poem?

I’m back again for another NaBloPoMo! I feel so unproductive when I’m not posting daily. 

Nature should be good inspiration for writing poetry this month…or reading poetry…or reflecting on poetry.  The forests here in the foothills of Kentucky are carpeted with wildflower blooms right now, and simply taking a walk along a woodland stream is a practice in poetry.  

Larkspur, wild iris, white violets, wild phlox and trilliums are blooming en masse.  Though more delicate than showy hot house annuals, I think they’re beautiful! 

I’m excited about this month’s theme, yet a bit nervous about sharing any poetry. I worry too much about whether or not I’m doing it right, which is probably the best way to stifle my creative muse, right? 

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what the month turns up!