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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Better, thanks.

     Tonight I said to my husband, “I feel happy.” What with a lot of family turmoil of late, it’s been a while since I felt that way, and it took me by surprise. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and we had pizza night early so college sophomore son could indulge before heading back to school Sunday afternoon. Amateur pastry chef son-in-law made dough for several pizzas, and darling daughter did most of the assembly. We baked the concoctions in the gas grill on our fabulously remodeled porch, and three young guy friends came by to help with the eating.
     A tablecloth and a jug of flowers remained on the teak table from Thanksgiving dinner. The kids ate snacks and played “Settlers of Catan” there all afternoon. I think I am slow to remove the last signs of the Thanksgiving feast, because it was so good. We had three tables on the porch to seat 20 people, both relatives and friends. Brother-in-law smoked a turkey. Darling daughter roasted sweet potatoes. We heated up a spiral-sliced ham and mashed stacks of russet potatoes. Husband mixed up world’s best stuffing. We had chocolate pecan and mincemeat pies and apple galettes. (Layer apples with spices and butter on a pastry crust, fold the edges in and bake.) I made basil-infused lemonade because a niece requested it. When the pitcher got low, she joked she would take bids on the last glassful.
     Two years ago, Thanksgiving dinner included me, husband and one son. This year, we had college son; darling daughter, her husband and two-year-old; oldest son and his four children; bro-in-law, his wife and two daughters, a friend of one of theirs; mother-in-law; and another family of four, good friends from church. The grown cousins enjoyed catching up. Two-year-old grandson gave six-year-old twin girl cousins fist bumps, and they pretended to be knocked over backwards. He giggled.
     The weather was perfect for sitting on the porch. The homemade cranberry sauce turned out nice. We had good wines. But in the end, the best thing I could think of to say about the day was that it was… normal. I know “normal” can be pretty bad at holidays, with anger and old grudges, so I guess what I mean is that this is the way it ought to be. No single thing made the day so fine, but we were all together, and a lot of unpleasantness was ignored or left behind or just overshadowed by kindness and sharing and love. I’m thankful for that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Sweets, Snakes and Walmart Figs

I never knew that sweet potato vines produced flowers, but here they are, looking like morning glories. The net tells me that researchers clip and prune and dry and soak such vines in order to get flowers, and they don't always get them. Hot, wet Florida produces them with one palm tree tied behind its back.                                                                                 Horticulturalists want the seeds so they can breed plants for desired qualities, like color or shape or flavor of the fruit. So I guess I will have to watch for seeds and try planting them next year. I'll be the east-coast Luther Burbank. 
 Whoever named the rattlesnake bean either thought the reptile was beautiful, or never saw the blossoms. How do these ethereal beauties relate to the rattlesnake? The bean pods do grow with mottled markings that could resemble a rattler if you squint real tight. I got just a few of them when I planted the beans last summer. They're supposed to like the heat, but to paraphrase garden guru Margaret, there's heat and there's Florida heat. They squeezed out about six beans and shriveled to sticks. In  "cooler" fall weather, they thrive.  

Figs! Purchased at a store that otherwise gives me hives: Walmart. Margaret told me to buy plants there. "No, really." So I stopped in to their garden department and discovered gorgeous, vigorous growing things like this fig tree, scarcely a foot tall, but with this pretty fruit on it. To foil the verminous squirrels that get most of my figs, I've ensconced this plant in a tomato cage and wrapped it with bird netting. I will eat those figs. I will.