Aromatherapy: The Wonder of Nature’s Perfume

TulipFestAfter a long, cold winter, I can hardly complain about the heat and humidity of the last few days. It seems hard to believe that only a few days ago, I was covering my sensitive annuals with hay due to a frost advisory.

IMG_9627Nevertheless, my perennial bulbs are loving this heat spell and I am taking full advantage of the abundance of blooms to bring indoors.

If you have followed my blog over the years, you know my favorite flowers are Lilacs. These are my Miss Kim Lilacs-which bloom 2 weeks later than the standard ones- so my Lilac season lasts much longer than one would think possible. Putting my nose into the florets is “heavenly bliss”. I have no other way to describe the delightful aromas that put me into a state of ecstasy.LilacBliss

Then my Iris start opening- both single and double bearded varieties. The single ones have a sugary powdered scent that satisfies my cravings, while the doubles have a darker, richer fragrance that doesn’t let me go.HeavenlyIris

This year at almost the same time, the Peonies began opening. They have a completely different aura. Sweet, but more sophisticated, with layers of roses infiltrated into them- wild, climbing, tea- all varieties are collected into one breed.Peony9698

I spent Memorial Day weekend catching up on yardwork, with many hours spent outside. By  the time I returned to work on Tuesday I wasn’t sure I could take even a half day indoors. I decided to bring a bouquet of flowers to the office. I collected Peonies, Iris and Lilacs and set them up in my 150 sq. ft office that I share with my partner.

20150526_211216

We enjoyed the sweet wafts of scent that the breezes from  our open window spread around the room. However, the real aromatherapy was noticed when our colleagues came bursting in the door- frantically asking us questions- and then paused, mid-sentence- to notice how wonderful our flowers smelled. By the time they were done taking in and appreciating the beautiful display, they had forgotten the urgency of their visit and we were able to conduct business in a much more agreeable way.

Too bad I don’t know of any season that yields more fragrant flowers than the month of May. As the days get hotter, the fragrances are only noticeable to the birds and the bees. As beautiful as Sunflowers, Phlox, poppies and Gladiolus are, they really don’t have the same scent appeal. May is the season for Aromatherapy.IMG_9645

Advertisements

Embrace the Season

I love Autumn! Walking through the woods while crunching and swishing the dry leaves under my feet is such a wonderful sensation. I climb the short hill and get panoramic views of the colorful foliage on both neighboring ranges. Raking leaves, digging up bulbs and putting my garden to rest are satisfying routines that indicate we are fast approaching the dormant season.
In the meantime,  I am still harvesting swiss chard, Brussels sprouts,  kale, collard greens and parsley for dinners. My favorite fall flower, the hardy chrysanthemums,  are done blooming;  but that doesn’t mean I can’t find a bouquet for my table. There are plenty of dried seed pods, grasses, evergreens, berries and succulents to enjoy this time of year. It is still possible to enjoy the season and embrace the colors and textures that we don’t get any other time of year.
Happy Autumn!

image

image

Surviving a Kitchen Makeover: Tip # 4

Tip # 4: Accept invitations for dinner whenever possible

IMG_9020     IMG_9019

Progress Report: The structural beam has been repaired. They have rewired the electric and plumbing and are working on the vent for the stove. Sheetrock is starting to go up and it is beginning to look like a kitchen.

IMG_9014    IMG_9015

Nevertheless, there are still no appliances and we are probably many days away from being able to cook in the kitchen. Which brings me to Tip # 4: Accept Invitations for dinner whenever possible.

Even though, technically speaking, I can cook my dinner on the grill, I have not stocked up on all the perishable items that are nice to enhance the flavors and most of my non-perishable ones are packed away. My garden produce keeps on growing, though and it is a shame to let it go to waste. I have given away many pounds of kale, collard greens, cucumbers and herbs. Now the zucchini and green beans are starting to become abundant.

My friends and family all appreciate what I am going through and kindly offer to have us over for dinner. It is a much better option than going to a restaurant or ordering takeout.  I have been showing up with freshly picked vegetables as my contribution to their efforts and we have all enjoyed each others company for a few hours. It is a nice way to step away from the chaos going on at home and an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of maintaining these friendships. It really reminds you that we can’t always do it alone and it is nice to know you have people to lean on when you need it.

I look forward to hosting a kitchen party when it is all done as a way of thanking all my friends and family for their support.

p.s. as I am typing this, appliances are being delivered and cabinets are starting to be installed! More updates tomorrow!

 

 

A Little Piece of Heaven

Little Piece of Heaven

My favorite time of the year is here once again- Lilac Season!  It only lasts about two weeks, but when it is Lilac Season sitting on my deck feels like heaven. The warm breezes blow the fragrant aromas of the abundant lilac bushes in my direction. I close my eyes and inhale the sweet air wafting in my direction.

It is a good thing I don’t have to drive anywhere tonight, as I am definitely DUIL-  “Dizzy Under the Influence of Lilacs”. I feel totally relaxed and at peace. I could sit here for hours-just feeling happy – engulfed in this little piece of heaven.

My husband was trying to converse with me, but I totally lost my focus. Instead, I blurted out, “when I die I want my ashes spread under a hedge of lilacs.”  I know I caught him off guard. I don’t expect to leave this world for a long time. But I was totally DUIL. I grabbed my camera and walked around the hedge, vainly trying to capture the essence. Unfortunately, there is no way a digital picture can convey the overpowering aromatherapy coming out of these bushes.

Lilacs7141

As I made my rounds, I made sure to notice all the other favorite scented flora that would be in full bloom by the time the lilacs were finished: Lovely Bearded Iris,

lush double Peony    Peony

and even the prickly Rosa Rugosa- which this bee seeemed drunk on.  Rose7147

They each have their own special perfume which can bring a smile to my lips as I raise the flower to my nose and inhale. I would approve any of these as a substitute resting place if no lilacs are available.

But until then, I prefer to experience a little piece of heaven on earth while I’m sitting on my deck, savoring my all too short Lilac season.

IMG_4328

Appearance Matters

It seems to have become an annual tradition that the week before Memorial Day, we spruce up our outdoor spaces. The threat of frost has passed, the gardens are in bloom and we are ready to kick off some barbecues. Before we do though, our chores include weeding and mulching the gardens; as well as power washing the decks and siding and repainting the cedar furniture and deck.

Instead of seeing a dried out, tangled patch of assorted plants running amok, we now have  a weedfree garden, freshly covered in dark wood chips and bursting with purple orange and pink flowers. The difference in appearance is stunning!

   

Likewise, washing the cumulative dirt, leaves and cobwebs off the front porch and slapping a fresh coat of cheery almond stain on the rocking chairs and tables makes the space much more appealing- especially when I add the new throw pillows and a hanging geranium.

The work is time-consuming and sometimes messy, but the results are well worth it. Because I know what is involved, I dig out my sneakers with the rubber treads wearing off , a baggy pair of shorts which I don’t normally wear but saved for chores like this, and an old t-shirt already decorated with paints of blue, yellow and gray from earlier projects.

By the time I am finished with the front porch furniture, I have smears and speckles of color on my arms and legs. There is even a section of my hair that is clumped together by dried paint. I don’t mind, though. I have been working hard and these marks are proof of that. Besides, I am so happy with the results of my efforts that I decide to keep going and tackle the even bigger project on the deck.

Unfortunately, we are out of stain and I will need to go out for more. I look at my spotted arms and legs, the stains on my shirt and the stiff clump of miscolored hair. I would never consider going to the grocery store like this. With my baggy, unflattering shorts, my sweat-soaked shirt and messy hair I cringe to imagine what people would think if they saw me.

I know it would be a waste of time to shower and change, only to come back and resume painting, so I decide to wear this outfit with pride. Recognizing my smears, stains and unfashionable clothing as the attire of a DIY painter in the middle of a project helped me see my appearance in a different light. After all, I was going to Lowes. Wouldn’t half the people there look like me?

As you can guess, no one gave me a second look or raised an eyebrow. It was obvious I was just coming in for more supplies for my deck project. Going out dressed like this should never have been an issue in the first place. Why should appearance matter so much?

Anyway, I returned home and resumed painting my deck furniture. The new coat of stain hid all the chips, cracks and layers of color the pieces had acquired over a dozen years.

       

They are well-made  adirondack style chairs and now they look as good as new. Once the deck gets its touch-up, I’ll be able to arrange the potted flowers and tiki torches and make it look very inviting. Soon I will be ready to entertain guests and kick off the barbecue season.

I guess that means I better freshen up my pedicure. It is one thing to go to Lowes looking disheveled, but I could never look like that when I have guests. Besides, after all that hard work, don’t my nails deserve equal treatment of a fresh coat of paint? Then it will really feel like summer!

Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor

  You may be asking, “When did asparagus become a fruit?”. Maybe I should have used the word vegetables or flowers in my title, but that wouldn’t have been as catchy. When I saw this fresh crop of asparagus ready to harvest for dinner, I was so excited I ran to get my camera.  My husband and I both enjoy working in our garden. Planting and tending our flowers and vegetables (raspberries are the only fruits of our labor) and then harvesting what we have grown gives us great pleasure.

I have posted photos of my flowers before so most of you know how much I love cutting that first bouquet of the season, no longer relying on the supermarket for my indulgence. Creating my own unique arrangement of bulbs and flowering shrubs is my favorite weekly activity.

The bright bursts of color and the sunny days warm my heart.

Yet as much as I love my flowers, they are not nearly as satisfying as eating our homegrown produce for dinner.  My crop of mint is now thriving so I will be clipping some sprigs to throw into my iced tea.

When I make baked potatoes for dinner, we can chop some chives to throw over them.

It won’t be long before the lettuce mix and the baby spinach is ready to pick and I will become overwhelmed with fresh salad for lunch.

But none of these developments is as exciting as cutting that first batch of asparagus. Last night I was able to harvest 8 stalks! I delicately sauted them with some olive oil , throwing the tips in with a pat of butter at the last second. The portion size was way too small per person- we each could have eaten the whole plate. It was wonderful to see how much the kids appreciated the fact that we had grown this, even though they knew that by next week they will be sick of asparagus. Until then, I am going to enjoy every savory bite.

Time for a Change of Season

I look out my window and see a cascade of yellow leaves twirling to the ground. The trees are almost bare. Soon it will be time to rake the leaves into piles and put them in my compost or use them for bedding on my sleeping gardens.        

The raspberries hang on through October, still producing a few succulent berries;

but the brussels sprouts are energized by the colder weather, producing their little bulbs which will be harvested in a few weeks.

My flowers are winding down for the season. I am able to cut a few dahlias, brave enough to bloom but I have to supplement them with more hardy chrysanthemums and sedum.

A lone Morning Glory still tries to greet the day, which gets later and chillier with each passing dawn.           

The Holly is producing brilliant red berries in anticipation of a new season ahead.       

But for the most part, all that is left of my flowers are dried hydrangea heads and puffy seed pods. I leave them standing as a display of textures.

     

I feel compelled to buy a few potted mums for a splash of color on my doorstep, but it is time to prepare for winter.    

I turn over the soil around my pruned stalks and scratch bone meal into the surface where my spring bulbs are planted. I gather fallen leaves and lay them over the flower beds. It is time for them to rest and prepare for their Spring activity. It is time to prepare myself for winter, too.

I swap out the baseball caps for hats and mittens, knowing it won’t be long until it snows.     

I cook a big pot of chili and curl up in front of the fireplace, which has been lit for the first time in months. Like my gardens, we all need to time to rest… at least for this evening.