In A Vase on Monday – I’ll Swanee

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I’ll swanee is slang from the American South. I think of it as a polite old lady’s way of exclaiming I swear. I have never swaneed myself, either I am not old enough or not Southern enough. Stay tuned. My mother would come up with things like “I’ll Swanee! I have never seen anyone with hair the color of a cocker spaniel before” translation, “I swear that is the worst dye job I have ever seen, meow” The term Swanee is frequently used as a means to soften a catty comment.

The green glass swan is another  heirloom from my mother, the avid swan collector. It might be an ashtray from the 5o’s, I am not quite sure what it is, today it is a vase. The swan collection was so overwhelming as I was clearing out her house everyone got a swan, I ended up with this one and some other green glass pieces. Another view:

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As for the plants used in the arrangement, this is a good vase for butterflies. All attract butterflies, the blue flowers are from Tropical Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) I think of these as the hydrangeas of the tropics, summer flowering and they are showy as the weather heats up in June and July. The smaller purple flowers are from the Golden Dewdrop (Duranta) and the white flowers are Plumeria or Frangipani. I added a few green ferns for contrast.

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In A Vase on Monday – Tea Stained Melange

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It was Mother’s Day as I was plotting my Monday vase, so naturally I thought of what my mother might like in a vase. My mother (passed nearly seven years ago) was not nearly as snooty as I am about her flowers and enjoyed just about anything she could grow successfully. I am hard pressed to think of something she really didn’t like. Growing up we always had a seemingly magical forest of Cosmos and Scarlet Runner beans to play in. Many of the plants grown in the garden would end up in a vase on Monday! She would definitely get a kick out of all my wacky tropicals and the vases every Monday.

I ended up with her favorite teapot. I am fairly certain it was a wedding gift, the rim and base stained russet from untold thousands of pots of tea, many shared with me. I walked through my garden and cut everything that was in bloom and arranged it all in the teapot.

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The big leaves in the back are Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera), the pink flower in the middle is a Brazilian Plume (Justicia carnea), Florida Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divaricata) on each side in white, Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ‘alba’) the smaller white flowers, Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis) are the yellow and Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum) the red and yellow on the sides. The teapot is marked Hall, made in the USA.

My husband wandered through as I was assembling the vase and asked me, aghast, ‘Is that your Monday vase?’

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This is a side shoot from Sweet 100 tomatoes I hope to root to extend my tomato season.

Here is my mother, ever the Southern Belle, at the peach packing house with her grandfather in the late 1940s.

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Miss Betty and Mr. Tommy

In a Vase on Monday- No Pansies Here

 

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I usually start with one idea and end up with something completely different. After suffering a planting design lecture from myself, I ended up with this. The Orange (called Dwarf Red) Ixoras have started flowering in earnest, so I plucked a few of those and began to make a posy (thank you, Cathy , our meme hostess at ramblinginthegarden) for the new term I love. A posy would be called a bouquet in the US, I can’t speak for anywhere else. My posy just wasn’t working out even though the design principles were solid (more lecturing) fine textured orange contrasting with coarser yellow flowers (Beach Sunflowers) the big coarse purple Solar Sunrise Coleus leaves edged in chartreuse picking up the color of the finer textured Boston Ferns. I give myself a headache thinking about these things sometimes.

After the failure of my posy design to gel, caused primarily by structural issues due to poorly considered stem lengths, I sought a small vase for my finely considered composition. The vase was my mothers favorite pansy jar. A none too fine pressed glass jar from God knows where that was frequently filled with pansies in the winter during my childhood. Perfect for oddly too short stems. My mother, not being much of an arranger, would have loved this one. The below photo is my mother (in 1948) overlooking the pansy jar.

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Pansies in South Florida are an ill considered indulgence. Lasting when temperatures are perfect, maybe two weeks, and requiring more vigilance than I possess I have forsaken them for more tropical flowers. So, no pansies for the pansy jar. But a few new plant friends have been made to grace this heirloom vase.

In A Vase on Monday – Bourbon and Branch for Easter

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I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia; the Deep South. Celebrating Easter has some traditions. There is usually an arrangement of flowers centered around Spring featuring pastel colors and bulbs, maybe some forced branches from Cherry trees if Easter is early.

The traditional Easter fare is a ham criss crossed with a knife, canned pineapple rings centered in the squares, cloves inserted (and sometimes a maraschino cherry) the entire ham is then doused in brown sugar and baked. The women are madly working in the kitchen while the men are outside having a Bourbon and Branch.

Bourbon and Branch is a cocktail, branch is water from the pure running creek in the backyard.

I have eschewed the ham tradition and the bourbon tradition. This leaves me looking for some other kind of branches as the creeks I would drink water from are few and far between. What is currently blooming in my garden is mostly orange, not what I had in mind for an Easter arrangement.

The Hong Kong Orchid tree has been flowering for a couple of weeks, a nice lavendar color and has a gnarled branch look about it. I decided to try one of those large branch arrangements that appear effortless. Ha, the branches are twisty and uncooperative and have to be pruned into submission. Then I decided to add a Palm frond, it is Easter, just a bit late for the palm part. The frond overwhelms everything so I cut it down to a smaller size and add some russet Bromeliad foliage to pick up the darker color in the Orchid flowers.

Here is the result, I thought this was a bit weird, but I like it. I left the pods and some browning foliage on Orchid tree branches and crushed the ends a bit to see if they would last longer that way. A semi traditional Easter arrangement, as I have the branch part covered, maybe I should try to find the bourbon.

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In A Vase on Monday – The Ephemeral Martini

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As usual, I started out with one idea and ended with an entirely different vase. I was walking my dogs this morning and noticed this particularly lovely Hibiscus flower.

A Hibiscus flower in South Florida is not particularly notable, but this shrub is really amazing. An old variety planted in the 60s by my neighbor’s grandmother, this shrub lives on the edge of my front yard – unirrigated, unfertilized, and thriving in near total shade (everything one is not supposed to do to a Hibiscus) This heirloom delight blooms off and on all year to the point I hardly notice it.

I plucked the flower and put it in a brown pottery vase, this just didn’t look right. The festive red tropical flower needed some party vibes. I decided one of my mother’s crystal Martini glasses would be the proper setting – an heirloom for an heirloom, and loved the result:

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I added a bit of Sweet Begonia foliage and that was it. I was confused for a long time about the Martini glasses, I think they were a wedding gift to my parents when they married in the 1950’s. My grandmother was a teetotaling Southern Baptist and my mother always referred to these as ‘fruit compotes’; imagine my surprise when I learned of Martinis and their proper stemware. I suspect some Gin and Vermouth has been in these glasses at some point because I can remember the cocktail parties.

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The ephemeral nature of this is these flowers are known to only last one day. I will have to wait until nightfall to see what transpires.

 

Getting Thrown Out of the Girl Scouts

One of the Fiats, the Green one!

One of the Fiats, the Green one!

Earlier this afternoon, for some reason I told my husband about getting thrown out of the Girl Scouts. Realise we have been together for almost 25 years and he had never heard this story.

I call myself a recovering Southern Belle, this is probably a contributing factor.; as Belles are naturally former Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts are an American organization that hike, camp, earn badges and improve neighborhoods, according to their website. I imagine their goals were similar in the late 1960’s when I was dying to be a Girl Scout, have a green uniform and belong.

My mother, the venerable Miss Betty, I think was approaching her limit on driving children around (I was the fourth) and she had not learned to drive until the ripe old age of 35. Then, my father insisted that only a manual transmission car was worthwhile and bought her a series of peculiar Fiats. The suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia was not the place for any sort of foreign car in the 1960’s.

We lived in a relatively unfashionable area that still had Ku Klux Klan meetings, I can remember a building downtown with a giant cross on top where the meetings were held. And  I attended Elementary school with the Grand Wizards grandson. For some reason I turned out to be a mostly socially liberal person with numerous gay friends, go figure.

One day Miss Betty was selected to drive the Girl Scout troop around. Well, the Fiat had a stick shift and no one in the sticks of North Georgia had ever been in anything other than a Buick with a sluggish automatic transmission. The phone tree in suburban Atlanta lit up with concern about the maniac lady in the Red Fiat. Mothers were complaining that their daughters were terrified by the stick shift and the speed of the little Fiat that had an engine about the size of a really fast John Deere lawnmower.

My mother was appalled at the indignity of being accused of speeding and terrifying little girls and pulled me out of Girl Scouts immediately. I have never joined another women only organization.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Southern Belledom

This post is called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of Southern Belledom:

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bacon, a basic ingredient for green beans?

For those of you unfamiliar with Southern Belles, the prime example would be Scarlett O’ Hara from the movie Gone With The Wind. The book was written by a lady from Atlanta, Georgia, where I grew up and lived for 50 years. Scarlett was played by an English actress, Vivien Leigh, who I must say did  an amazing job at depicting the true Belle.

I have posted about Southern Belledom previously. I consider myself a recovering Southern Belle. The are many aspects of Belledom I just can’t cope with. Primarily shoes, I would rather not wear them. My mother used to tell me I was a half peach when I was little because we were from Georgia. I must be a whole peach by now and unfortunately I can’t pick a good peach out of a produce bin to save my life. This is one of life’s little mysteries.

It should also be noted I have an odd inability to digest fried food. This may be luck or possibly Yankee genes from my Connecticut born father. Who ate fried everything – even liver.

The Good: Things I have learned from being a Southern Belle:

My grandfather was a peach farmer who raised cattle and pigs as well. Farm to table food was what they ate before it was popular and there are few things better than homemade sausage, peaches right off the tree or radishes from the garden. I have a true appreciation for fresh food.

I have a deep appreciation for polite people. Southerners are generally polite to a fault, but may say anything behind your back. I now live in what might be considered northern South Florida and there are way too many people down here with bad manners. In the Miami area I have frequently heard the statement “the further north you go the nicer the people are” Well, I would hate to live down there.

There is nothing funnier than the southern sense of humor, self deprecating and wicked. It boggles many people, I get it and write it.

Craftsmanship. I love things made by hand and not with a computer. Artwork, lace, woodworking – just about anything.

A love and respect for animals that I am not sure all people share. Dogs and cows, especially.

An appreciation for native plants, in the current vernacular, and many other plants as well.

Rat Cheese Toast: this is peculiarly southern and perhaps a Greatest Generation thing that is dying out. French bread slices buttered and topped with a thick slice of Extra Sharp, Extra Cheap Grocery store Cheddar and broiled til bubbly and brown. Especially good with tomato soup.

 

The Bad: A Good Southern Belle should eat and read these things. I don’t.

I realize a lot of this is food based. The Southeastern United States is called “The Stroke Belt” for good reason.

I hate overcooked vegetables, especially with anything greasy in them, a very common side dish in the South, green beans with bacon, anyone?. I wonder how many true Southerners had their cholesterol ruined by eating vegetables. Truly a contradiction in food.

I hate Sweet tea. If I wanted to drink syrup, I would. How many Southerners were turned diabetic by this particular beverage? My grandmother (who was diabetic) made her tea with actual saccharin. Little pills that looked like mini aspirin.I just read up on saccharin, the dictionary says it is 300 times sweeter than sugar with a bitter aftertaste. That perfectly describes my grandmother’s sweet tea. I will only drink tea straight up.

I am not  fond of pimento cheese. Which is odd for someone raised in the South. Mayonnaise and grated cheese with pimentos, seriously considered a gourmet item and how many grams of fat ? Then flavorless white bread spread with margarine prior to the application of the mayo/cheese /pimento mixture. Greasy, yes. Skip that and give me some “rat cheese” toast. Seems crazy, but probably better for you.

Ever had a sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping? If so, I don’t need to go any further. If you haven’t, imagine mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, maple syrup and pecans, possibly pineapple with stacked jet puffed marshmallow browned on top. To go with turkey. The concept is bizarre. And I would say you have to grow up with it, like grits, but I did, and Ewww.

Dark Southern Literature, did anything good ever happen in Mississippi? something must have.

The Ugly: Things I can’t deal with in good conscience.

Oh, the things Southerners will say behind your back. Truly ugly.

Be careful about the color of the roots of your hair, regardless of where you started.

My Girl

 

 

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This is My Girl
This is my girl Greyhound, her name (her actual racing name) is My Girl. She is thirteen years old. Really old for a big dog and Greyhounds in general, she has been with us for years. I am very attached to her. We tried to rename her Faye when we first got her, but she wasn’t having any of that. So, My Girl she has remained.

When I refer to her as my girl greyhound, people get pissy and say “what’s her name, doesn’t she have a name?”

I think this is because our other dog is Charles and is male. My Girl is simply that and she always has been.

She is sitting with her food bowl in the picture because she has taken to eating, lying down, which, really at 80 or 85 dog years who could blame her for wanting to lie down while eating.

Another side effect of a dog of advanced years is needing to go out in the middle of the night. I give her credit for waking me to let her out, but I am not at my conscious best at 3 or 4 a.m.

Hence, the following picture of my foot:

Totaled Toenail

Totaled Toenail

I found out the hard way running into a concrete block wall at 3 a.m. will destroy your toenail.
Eventually my toenail turned black, rolled over at a 90 degree angle, then got infected and had to be removed. Surgically.

Oh, well. My Girl is keeping me company as I sit to prop my foot up. The doctor said it wouldn’t hurt..he left out the part about wearing shoes or putting weight on it. As long as you don’t wear shoes or stand up it feels fine.

Cat Training

I have a fluffy white cat, she is long haired; an heirloom cat. The cat is heirloom because I inherited her. This cat originally belonged to my parents and then to my older brother, all have passed on – yet the cat is still around. My parents got the cat the year before my father passed on and kitty was my mother’s best friend until she died; then my brother adopted the cat and he passed on. A friend suggested maybe I did not want this cat due to her track record with owners. Me being me, I just couldn’t give her away; she was a good friend to half of my family. I have two additional siblings; both have cats and refused to take her. I was very hopeful when I picked her up that my greyhounds wouldn’t eat her, as she bears a strong resemblance to a rabbit (they haven’t)

The cat had the unlikely moniker, Sweetie Pie. I can still hear my mother with her Southern accent  in a high pitched voice exclaiming “she’s my little Sweetie Pie”. My husband decided having a cat named Sweetie Pie would not enhance his masculine reputation and we began to call her Miss Kitty, which was fine with the cat as long as she was provided with ample treats.

The poor cat, after surviving the loss of two humans and a terrible case of fleas came to our house, half bald and weighing six pounds, and was presented with two very large dogs. I took her to the vet first thing and she was fine, but I wasn’t – she had put her claw through a tendon in my hand as I was (foolishly) trying to comb the dead fleas out and my hand was getting infected. So, I took the cat home and took myself to the human doctor. I was given antibiotics and told to immobilize my hand for three days. Of course it was my right hand and I use that one most.

Coincidentally, I had been wearing an Ace bandage on my foot for an ankle problem and I ended up with one on my hand as well. I saw the vet later and he said I looked like I had been to Afghanistan. No, I had not been to the Middle East. It was a minor skirmish in the kitty wars.

The cat took one look at the dogs and went under the nearest bed. The dogs didn’t seem to bear her any ill will – they just wanted to smell her to see what she was. I think. I was concerned because one of the dogs had tried to eat a couple of small animals (no house pets were ever harmed-a snake had an unfortunate demise being trampled to death by 70 plus pounds of Greyhounds at full speed). Eventually all was well and the dogs figured out it was OK and they shouldn’t bother the cat. The cat stayed under the bed for about six months until we went out of town for a couple of days.

We came back, opened the front door and the cat was there to greet us, yowling. She turns out to be quite vocal to the point I had to put a set of steps up to the bed so she could sleep by my head. She was waking me up 5 times a night yowling so I would put her on the bed. My husband sleeps right through it. I have actually trained the cat to use a step stool so she can come and go as she pleases without disturbing me. Or did Sweetie Pie (Miss Kitty) train me? Hmmm

Here’s the kitty now, she is flea free and weighs over 9 pounds. The weight may just be the fur.

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10 Reasons why I am a Bad Southern Belle

A properly arranged bridal shower tea

A properly arranged bridal shower tea

I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, attended and graduated from Tucker High School followed by the University of Georgia and lived in Georgia for 50 years. I have a great deal of experience in being Southern.

That said, I am not a good Southern Belle.

For those of you who are uninformed about Southern ladies; there are a lot of rules. Things that must be remembered and feared, lest you provide fodder for gossip.

My mother was a Greatest Generation Southern Belle raised in South Georgia who believed in and followed the rules. She did her best to imbue me with the knowledge of how to be a proper Southern Belle. It worked better on my sister.

While many people have been impressed with my memory; these rules did not stay with me.

Here are the ten reasons I am not a good Southern Belle:

1. I like dark meat chicken salad.  Go figure, an old friend of mine (a gay man) from extreme southwestern Georgia told me the women in his hometown gossiped about ladies who use dark meat in chicken salad. I can believe it.

2. I have limited variety in my shoe wardrobe and I hate white shoes. To be properly southern you must follow shoe color restrictions during certain seasons. It is considered very bad form to wear white shoes or certain articles of white clothing before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Winter white is an exception, but there are additional rules for that. Patent leather shoes are another big deal. In my opinion, if you are in high school you are too old for patent leather shoes.

3.  I detest Euphemisms: no Southern lady ever farted, pooped or sweated. They “make smells”, “have a BM”, and “glow”. I find Midwesterners very refreshing in this regard. They call it like they smell it, hear it or see it. I married one.

4.  I like wearing black to weddings, black is slimming. If you are truly a Belle there is no wearing of black to weddings,  with the exception of shoes and accessories, that is OK.  The inference (supposedly) is mourning of bride or groom’s mistake. Really, the little black dress should go everywhere.

5.  Vulgarity in many cases is amusing. Southern ladies say “Don’t be vulgar”why not? It’s fun.

6.  I enjoyed swimming as a teenager, but was told “Women of your breeding don’t go to the swimming pool”  I was always flummoxed  by this; especially since there was no air conditioning?

7.  I believe health problems should be recognized for what they are. We have no alcoholics or addicts; there is “hardening of the liver” or “a little problem” I have heard someone say “his liver is like a hockey puck” Colon cancer is not considered a topic for polite conversation.

8.  I am pretty certain all women go through menopause. Southern ladies just don’t admit it. I can remember seeing my mother sweating profusely in the middle of winter and asking her about it. “Nothing was wrong, Daddy had the thermostat set too high”, she said.  Then she told me it only took her one day to go through menopause and it was no problem. I am still choking on that one.

9. Not freezing at Easter; I think this is a good idea. A proper Belle breaks out and wears their spring clothes at Easter regardless of the weather. You would think this is where winter white would be a good idea. I think you have to stop wearing winter white before Easter. But I really never got the whole winter white thing.

10.  The best reason is the last. My father was from Connecticut. My mother explained Southerners should always marry Yankees to assure the viability  of the gene pool. It gave me a good reason to wear white in October and go to the swimming pool. My Yankee genes must be dominant.