Through the night they fall from high oak trees, clang onto our roof, then bounce onto one of the decks, or onto the driveway that leads to the house. In the morning Jerry will sweep them up . . .again. The winds have increased, the temperature has dropped. Autumn, beautiful autumn, has arrived. The scent of ripening pears from our tree in the back floats through the air. The pears are perfection. Sometimes we eat one out of hand, or again on a small plate beside a slice of cheddar or a scoop of goat cheese.
A couple of Sundays ago after morning worship, our longtime friends, the Garretts, and our new friends, the Stegals, joined us for lunch at Macaroni Grill in Redlands. Holly and I each ordered a nice salad, and split a chicken dish. Someone ordered appetizers and when one of those dishes came to me, and I bit into a portion, I knew I was tasting an extraordinarily delicious food.
“What is this I’m eating?” I asked one of the waitresses, probably with my mouth full and with delectable droolings cascading down my chin.
“Peppers,” she said. “Peppadew peppers stuffed with goat cheese.”
She smiled as I raved at the incredible taste of those little morsels. “Some of our customers come in and order only appetizers.”
“I fully understand,” I replied.
Into my computer at home I typed the words Peppadew peppers served at Macaroni Grill, and voila, up came a recipe that looked to be exactly as the incredible dish had been prepared. Peppadew. Never heard of them, but I was hooked. Problem was, I could not find the peppers. Checked at Stater Brothers, Trader Joes, Von’s Pavillion, Jensen’s Fine Foods, and Goodwin’s Market. Holly checked at Gerards. Nothing. I did find them to be available on the internet, so a few days ago, I ordered 12 jars of Peppadews! Today they arrived.
A few minutes ago, I assembled half a dozen of these delicacies. Heavenly, I tell you.
I’m taking a little issue with the recipe. One half teaspoon of goat cheese is nowhere near enough. I stuffed in more, probably a rousing good tablespoon.
We’re having a little backyard end of summer BBQ next Saturday, and I’ll be passing around these glorious sweet peppers. Stop by and I’ll hand you one . . .maybe even give you one of the eleven jars I now have in my pantry.
Here in California we are experiencing severe drought conditions; farmer’s crops are failing, and deadly fires are raging, especially in the northern part of the state. We woke this morning to dense fog, then throughout the day a steady rain poured from the sky. It’s a great day–dark, but wonderful, and one that called for a change in our plans.
We had thought to eat a light breakfast, then go down to the lodge at Lake Gregory for lunch. We both agreed we didn’t want to go anywhere, rather we wanted to enjoy the glorious, stormy weather, so Jerry carried in wood, set the fireplace to roaring, and I “set in” to cooking.
Breakfast would be hearty and delicious.
Gravy, bacon and eggs. Each person is entitled to his own opinion, but ask mine and I’ll tell you I think these items constitute the world’s finest breakfast.
The Kris Keyes family, our dear friends from Safford, AZ., recently sent us four jars of jelly they had whipped up in their kitchen. Today we chose to indulge in the mixed-berry variety. Slathered the jeweled sweetness on our hot, crunchy biscuits. Sweet butter drifted here and there within the fine morsels.
I’m pretty careful about not wasting food. When I have small bits of left-overs I place them in freezer bags with the thought of eventually using them to make soup. Perfect day to utilize these tasty morsels. In the drippings from the bacon, I sauted chopped onions, peppers, and celery in this pan, dumped in the soup bag things, added lots of water, a tablespoon of chicken broth power, pepper, and set the pot to simmer.
Also in the freezer was a small bag of pecan pie mixture I had left over once when all the filling would not fit into the pie I was making. A frozen round of crust was also there. I whipped out these tiny pans, rolled out the crust, poured in the filling, added a few pecans, and shoved them into a hot oven.
We’ve eaten all the breakfast items. Same with the soup. All delicious. Now waiting on the counter are these two little pies. In an hour or so, I’ll turn on the Keurig, brew a couple of cups of strong coffee, and we will indulge.
What a day. Over 2 1/2 inches of rain. Food fit for royalty.
Back from walking Winston this morning, Jerry carried in his hand, then set down on the deck as he dealt with the leash, a cup I recognized. The cup is from a long-ago trip when several friends traveled with us as we trekked all the way from the west coast to the east, where in Maine we ate lobster and drank coffee at the Maine Roaster Coffee place. Five couples, all in very long motorhomes towing vehicles, had the trip of a lifetime, and that fine mug you see here came to be part of our kitchen things in that way. “Motor homing” is in our past and some of the souvenir cups that once bounced around in frisky cupboards now reside in sedate, non-moving shelves in our kitchen.
But here it was in Jerry’s hand on this foggy, chilly morning in Crestline. And in the cup were two perky roses.
It was Ron’s doing. He lives five or six houses down, and last week when he popped in for a word he accepted Jerry’s offer of a cup of coffee. I recall him walking out the door, holding the cup in the air. “I’ll get your cup back to you.”
Neighbors. Sweet neighbors. Thoughtful neighbors. With few exceptions those are the caliber of persons who live here in our “neck of the woods.”
Ron brought me great joy today by placing a couple of stems with roses and buds into the mug he had drunk from last week.
I wasn’t satisfied by merely looking at these treasures, for surely something as exquisite as these deserved a snap or two by my fine Nikon.
And just so, I posed them. I thought of Ron and his wife, of neighborliness, of roses, of their beauty. Of God who made them.
And I thought of you, and wanted to share.
Within each lifetime are portions of challenge. Alongside spiraling days of sunshine made glorious by glowing health and abundant prosperity are chunks of heaviness made dismal by days of inky sorrow and of gloomy prospects. True of everyone. None sidestep the issue. Friends are a cool invention, for wisping along with them, as pleasant as any summer breeze, are bubbly snippets of joy. When they come around, invariably along with them come those magical ingredients that whip up some of the happy, unforgettable days of a well-lived life.
Jerry and I planned a fine menu. He cooked ribs and a chicken on his beloved smoker that sets on the back deck and I prepared the rest of the meal. I took pleasure in setting a nice table. I chose red plates, used our finest silverware, and stuck floral napkins through the handle of napkin rings made in the shape of watering pots. Winston hung around our feet
Winston shocked us by his immediate, almost hero-worship-style of attraction to both of our friends when they arrived. (They had circled around a bit too long on our mountain roads, so finally Jerry went down to our 7-11 and led them to our driveway.) That little Shih Tzu adored them. On Thursday morning he lay at the door of the guest room where they were sleeping, and made sweet, whiny noises, occasionally poking his nose into the space where the door meets the floor. Quite unusual behavior for Winston, as in the past he has generally been hesitant to meet new people, and has not been overly friendly to them.
Stormy weather moved in with plunging temperatures, high winds, and pelting rain that snapped against our windows and doors. It was perfect weather for a long and cozy visit with our friends. We ate the high-calorie food Jerry and I had prepared, lingered at the table, and drank barrels of coffee (well, not quite barrels, but big jugs full.) Jerry kept the fireplace roaring. We talked. And talked.
Kris Keyes is the pastor of an Apostolic church in Safford, AZ. and much of our conversation centered around mutual friends and church activities. Politics, grill types, smoking methods, scriptures and their meanings, recipes, books we’ve read, hiking, and snippets of internet gleanings were among the subjects that filled in the spaces. On their computer, they showed us the pictures of their daughter Sarah’s recent wedding.
We moved to the study where Jerry riffled through his grill book so that he could print off a copy of his brining recipe. . . and we began saying our good-byes.
Our society has changed drastically since I was a child; many of the changes are positive ones, making for longer, healthier, more prosperous lives. Some changes , though, fall into the negative heap. One of these is our busyness; bolting through day after seething day, racing to another meeting, grabbing our phones for another can’t-be-missed conversation. Flip open our laptops, for surely people await to read every word that skids through our hot brains, read the news, despair, and occasionally rejoice. Make more money. Buy a newer car, a bigger house, a prettier dress. . .
And seldom do we sit. Sit for long periods. With a friend. With our family. No agenda. No rush. Sit. Talk. Share hearts. (Takes a while to share a heart.) Be quiet. Commune.
Guilty . . .I confess.
During the recent elegant hours Jerry and I spent with these friends I was so touched at one point as we discussed some great spiritual happenings during our lifetimes, Kris looked toward his wife and said, “I want that. I want that for our church.” Such conversations do not evolve quickly, nor through casual talk, nor through hurried, breakneck-speed words.
I have few answers to the dilemma of our frazzled, rushed society, but I do suggest that much peace and restfulness will likely come about when we ask friends into our homes. When we appeal to our families for time. Just time. Days perhaps. When they come and stay awhile, when we talk and listen. We hear. Our hearts pulse together.
During the night I saw that our electric bedroom clock had a black face, and having heard the forecast, I knew–at least I suspected. The unusual May storm had moved down the coast and was now pounding our dry, hungry area, and when I peered through the bathroom window I saw that our gardens were covered with snow. The great winds and heavy snow had somewhere caused a tree to fall into electrical lines, and “the power won’t be back on until 11:00 this morning,” said Bill when Jerry called to check on him after we first got up. Bill is our astonishing 94-year-old next door neighbor.
Looking out our dining room window, and across Lake Gregory, we saw this incredible scene, one my eyes never tire of seeing..
The coffee situation was of prime concern, and soon found me with both knees flat on the floor, my head stuck into a bottom-most cupboard. I hauled out pots and pans, then finally from the very back, I drew the prize. The ancient dented drip style coffee pot had rumbled around in all our motor homes, where on small burners it would gurgle and fuss, as among the steaminess it wafted out scents of brewing coffee. In addition to serving within the motor homes, it had treated us and our friends well at many a camp fire across the country. On the upper counter in my kitchen were two fine coffeepot specimens, a Keurig, and a Cuisinart, but although clothed in fine stainless steel attire, and wearing fancy knobs and boasting of superior settings, they both were helpless. Battered pot to the rescue!
As it was 30 degrees outside, warmth was a consideration, for our furnace, though gas, requires electricity to operate. Throughout the day–for the electricity actually was not restored until a few minutes after 7:00 in the evening–Jerry carried up loads of wood and kept a fire roaring.
I pulled on boots and Winston and I nosed around in the back where I saw that our plum tree was so weighted with snow that its top branch had bent until it touched the ground, as did our largest lilac bush. Two plum branches had broken off completely. But the snowy scene was stunningly beautiful. I admired frozen water drops on green stems, flower blossoms that were encased in ice, and other snowy forms and images.
I missed the light, though, and throughout the day I thought of distressed people in Nepal and of those who have never known electric lights, and of tribes who would stare with wonder at a microwave oven, or at a washing machine, or at the screen of a computer.
I remembered that Jesus is the light of the world, and reflected on the dominance and far-reaching considerations of that thought.
Occasionally Winston and I discuss his part in my blog writing, and with sad brown eyes he emphasizes that a great period of time has passed since he has been allowed access to my computer, and he feels quite sure that many of you are wishing to hear from him. Sometimes as I sit on the couch in my living room and type on my computer, he sits beside me, and when he lifts a fuzzy white paw toward the keyboard, I know he is feeling creative, and is wishing I would let him have a turn.
Because of his very black face into which his dark eyes are plunged, Winston is hard to photograph. Yesterday, though, I snapped a few good shots of him, and when I loaded them today I decided this would be a fine moment to let Winston tell you about them.
Winston here! Sir Winston of Crestline, I’m sure you recall.
My people have a thing about the trash. Well, I suppose I have a thing about it too, but they have quite a difference in opinion about the trash from mine: They even go to the extent of placing the trash baskets on top of the toilet fixtures in the bathrooms, so I can’t share them. The kitchen one is a compactor which I haven’t learned to manipulate, but the study! Oh, the trash can in the study is wonderful, and even though Mistress pushes it under the desk I easily get under there and knock it over. It’s a glorious place, mostly filled with paper, envelopes, used up pens, and cellophane pieces, along with an occasional Kleenex or paper towel.
Early yesterday I visited the study, and when I left I looked behind me, and there scattered about was quite a trail of wonder; papers gathered all about the black plastic wastebasket I had tipped over. I knew Mistress would not like it, but I just couldn’t help myself, and maybe if I could figure out how I could scoop all the litter back into the can, but I just don’t know how to do that. Later, as I sat atop the stretched-out legs of Master who was reclining in his favorite chair, I had some moments of reflection. Mistress had taken me to the vet on Monday for boosters, and I was thinking about beautiful Dr.Nicole Stanclift, and all those stunning nurses . . . just remembering how sweet they all are, and how I didn’t bark, or yelp too loud when I got the shots . . .when I noticed Mistress heading toward the study.
Now Mistress is not mean to me, never has been, but sometimes she gets really upset when I do a couple of things I shouldn’t, and she makes a loud voice. Same mouth as her regular one, but the sound that comes out scares me a little bit, and I know then I have done something wrong. Same thing with the trash can as when I nip at her to play: She says, “No Winston. You don’t bite.” and I try to tell her I’m not really biting, but I’m just wanting to play. I think she understands that for I hear her explaining to people about my nipping. The thing is I love Mistress and I don’t want her to be mad at me, and about the trash . . .I just don’t know what comes over me . . .
One thing I’ve thought about is that I am so beautiful, and my people love me so much that sometimes when I’ve been a little naughty, I remind them of how lovely I am . . .like wagging my gorgeous fluff of a tail really fast, and looking at them in a very sweet way with my deep doggy eyes.
On my Facebook site a few days before Christmas, I posted the following:
Year by year it became increasingly obvious that it was easy for some of our family to gift each other lavishly. Year by year it became increasingly obvious that to exchange gifts with their siblings and ever-increasing number of nieces and nephews was financially straining for others. Year by year all of us concluded that Christmas had become too mercenary, and that despite our words to the contrary, the season had become centered more and more on gifts, rather than on the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Last year, to contribute to alleviating the situation, we began a tradition that I believe helps us to celebrate Christmas as it really should be done. We continue this year. We have agreed to limit gifts among Jerry and me and our children, the siblings, their spouses, and their children to: handmade items, something we already possess, a purchase from a thrift or a 99 cent type store. It’s a challenge, satisfying, and lots of fun.
Today I want to show you a present I received; absolutely wonderful, but well within the rules of the “game.”
This was from Andrew and Shawnna, an oil painting on canvass they had bought some time back at a thrift store. It is stunning, the streaming light from the buildings and the streets remarkable; truly made me catch my breath when I first saw it. The painting is large, and I had a difficult time deciding on a place to hang it, but finally chose this spot in our study that leads to the back deck.
Attached to the painting when they bought it for $10.00 or so, was this paper that indicates the previous owner had purchased the piece in 1972 and had paid $145.00 for it. The name Beltrane is noted–not sure if that is the artist’s name or the buyer–rather suspect it to be the name of the buyer.
We will continue with our gift exchanges in this way, for it has proved to be successful, and I believe helps us to focus on Christmas as should be done. The process calls for thoughtfulness and planning. To Andrew I gave a set of DVDs from Because of the Times 2011, which I had watched numerous times. That cost me nothing, and I believe will be a real blessing to Andrew.
Life consists of so much more than frantic shopping, long check-off lists, cards sent because “they sent us one,” maxed-out credit cards that take ’til July to pay off . . .all that kind of thing. Rather, throughout the year we should insist on time to really live, to think on Jesus, on our loved ones, to truly remember the “reason for the season.” What say you?