The End of Flowers

We left our house this weekend for a fall tradition – returning to our alma mater for a football game – the fall and summer landscaping rivaled each other for beauty, and when we returned the whispered frost of fall had choked the annuals.  They had shrunk in size.  The vibrant green leaves, now dark, almost black.  The bright blooms were shriveled and colorless.

Last spring, my husband and I dug, planned, and planted new landscaping.  Beyond many people’s doubts, the landscaping turned out wonderfully.  It looked according the way I had hope, and it was a pleasure to pull up to our house each day.  As summer progressed, the annual flowers which made the new border flourished.  They doubled in size.  They grew bigger than the perennial hosta plants they surrounded.  They tripled in size.  They extended above the paver stone edge.  The bushes started to grow in size.  The neighbors started to notice.  We were were so happy as we watered and pulled weeds and cared for the flowers each day.

Then, the end of summer approached. The time to enjoy the flowers and spend time with the flowers went away, and the calendar marked the end of summer.  Being who I am, I pulled out the fall decoration boxes.  I was excited to put up the glittered pumpkins and the leaf wreath and garland.  Yet the temperature remained summer-like and the flowers grew even larger.  I found some time and made mums adorn the front porch and wrapped corn stalks around the pillars.  Eventually, the lighted pumpkins and scarecrow joined the vibrant pink annuals in our front yard. Now, as we pull up to our house, a small smile appears on my face and a soft giggle escapes.  My landscaping is now two-seasons of specialty.  The maroon, orange, and yellow of fall with the hot pinks, bright pinks, and purples of summer.

We pulled in after our fall weekend and suddenly fall looked less appealing.  The cornstalks no longer glowed with warmth, standing as protection over the diminutive annuals.  The flowers withered, and now I wanted the flowers.  I cared for the flowers, I enjoyed the flowers, but then I wished the flowers gone.  Only now, I dig, and they leave and I’m sad as the leaves surround me and the cold air gathers around my neck.

Proud, Thankful, and Happy

I find myself very engaged in these first few days of summer vacation.  Now, all of this was planned, but on my first official day off and only day off for several more days, I find myself wishing only to be on vacation.  I’m not ready to work again or work yet, I should say.  So, instead of writing of the work (of choice) to be done, I write of something that calms me no matter what the days bring.  Cooking.  Today, after several days away, where fast food was the first option and necessity, I cooked.  A meal at home for two.  We even got to enjoy our meal outside on our back deck where the sun shaded our table and the breeze blew calmly around us.

In my opinion, any home cook who has recently returned home has some culinary wishes, but many of these wishes are to get back to eating regular.  So, each home cook has some classic meals up his/her sleeve. I am the same way.  I have winter meals and summer meals for just these occasions.  They are the recipes that I grew up cooking with my mom and the recipes that don’t need any recipe card.  They are classics that taste good and always turn out great.  Today, is a recipe that I will share with you just in case you find yourself in just such a situation.

I had a bone-in chicken breast (good for 2 people, but this recipe can be doubled).  I first dried the chicken (dry chicken means brown chicken – thank you Anne Burrell).  Then I coated the chicken lightly with olive oil, salt and pepper.  I put this chicken breast side down on a very hot grill.  Then I placed my cast-iron skilled on top of the chicken and then placed a tin-foiled brick on top of the cast-iron skillet to weigh down the chicken.  This allows more of the breast to touch the grill.  Then I closed the grill lid and let the chicken cook for 25 minutes.  Don’t peak!  It needs to get crispy.  After 25 minutes, with extremely sturdy hot mitts, remove the brick and cast-iron skillet from the chicken.  Flip the chicken over and cook until an instant-read thermometer reads 155 degrees.  It is the prettiest chicken.  The breast will be golden-browned and crisp.  I was proud of the excellent grilling, thankful to my mom for showing me this trick, and happy to cooking and eating at home.

The Year is Over

The days are longer,
yet
the to-do list is shorter.
Careful black lines cross out
scrawled handwriting.

The year is over,
and
notebooks are filled
with notes and words.

I smile at the memories
and the new moments to come.

A Photo Journey

Several weeks ago, I detailed the landscaping adventures taking place at my house.  I am so happy to report that it is finished.  Finished in the sense that the grass is growing in where we changed the shape and the landscape, and finished in the sense that I don’t have to spend every weekend day covered in dirt.  We are finished to the point where daily watering and weed maintenance is doable.  So, here is our journey in pictures.

House 1 Here was our house at the end of summer last year – just a few months after our wedding and moving in together.  It looks good, but what you don’t see is that these wood chips are covering lava rock, so there was landscaping on top of landscaping, and nothing grew well.

FullSizeRender

Here was the front of our house when the landscaping was removed and we had removed layers of clay.  As one of my favorite Gilmore Girls episodes yells, “Big Hole!”

FullSizeRender (2)Now, here is the “finished” look.  Very suburbia which is exactly what I was going for. The grass is starting to fill in that dirt area now too.  It’s well on it’s way.  It’s so fun to watch the flowers flourish and fill in.  It’s going to be a great summer.   Thanks to all of our family and friends who were part of this project.

Revert to Comfort

I sat down, after a day of house work – laundry, cleaning, getting the yard ready.  It was a long day.  When I sat down, I knew I was done, but we needed establish an online account.  My husband had already established his and made his choice, but I needed to create an account before I could make my choice.  As I do this, I am annoyed that I have to create a separate account.  I don’t understand when things won’t allow you to have a family account.  Anyway, I put in my normal stuff which includes an email that was made under my maiden name.

I press “submit.”

Moments later, my husband gets an email that says, Amy Cusumano has added as a guest on your reservation.  This is my maiden name, and I didn’t even realize that I had written it in, until my husband, said, “Great.  Amy Cusumano added to my reservation.”  As soon as he said it, I knew that I had done something wrong, and then I realized that my mistake hurt him.  I quickly apologized and changed it.

As weird as it was to change my name after marriage, I’ve been doing pretty good remembering to sign and say it.  But, given my tiredness and mood, I revert back to comfort.

Laughing and Landscaping

We are in the middle of landscaping at our house.  When I say, middle, I mean, I am standing in a 2 foot hole of dirt or rather clay in front of my front porch where we have removed 12 yards of woodchips, rocks, clay soil, and dead shrubs.  The boys, my dad, father-in-law, brother-in-law, husband have been working for 2 weekends to remove all of this debris.  I have done what I can to help by feeding and cleaning up around them.

 

Sunday, though, I looked at the pile, and my husband’s words, “I’m done – hire someone” bouncing in my head, the girls (me and my sister) got to work.  We decided that we would turn the dirt, so that we could bring the bigger pile to the lower pile.  We would start the grading process, so the water runs away from the house.  Sweaty and about an hour in, we have piles, but no usable soil.  Once we removed the debris we found heavy, wet clay which is typical in this area.  We decided that we had to add it to the special pickup pile which the boys started the day before.  So, we began to fill the wheelbarrow and dump the contents on the pile.

 

We quickly realized that while useful, the wheelbarrow might be one of the hardest to use tools.  It wobbles on its one wheel and you have to support all of the weight with your arms.  Then as you maneuver the debris onto the pile, you have to get it high enough that you can keep adding to the pile.  Doing just this, I heard something.  I turned to see my sister struggling with the wheelbarrow only to watch it tip on its side.  She squawked, landing in the dirt.  Before I could inquire about her well-being, she triumphantly held up one wooden handle from the wheelbarrow and declared, “I broke the wheelbarrow.”  Realizing that she was fine, I started laughing and she started laughing.We could barely continue working as we giggled in between shovelfuls of clay.


Well, I guess this was girls and landscaping.  However, even writing this, I’m still laughing at my sister sitting next to a toppled wheelbarrow, holding up the broken wooden handle.

Good Intentions Gone Awry

I went to the grocery store.  I had planned on this trip.   I had my list, and I was ready.  I also had the added benefit of escaping the mess at my house with this trip.  The boys were ripping out the old landscaping at my house and for some reason, though I was told explicitly not to help or be around, I was very “needed.”  Well all I really needed to do was go to the grocery store, and so I did.  I’d be back by lunch when I actually was needed to provide sustenance.

 

I love to cook, so with my list was also a plan for the week’s dinners.  A bit ironically, though, I I don’t love grocery shopping.  I think it’s too crowded and I really feel like you have to be on your game or you’ll get something you don’t want like “Everything Triscuits” or “Reduced Fat Ritz Crackers” when you wanted original of both, and I never feel like I have the time I want to spend on the task. So, when I’m overwhelmed or something else is on my mind, grocery shopping is hard.  Today, though it was a welcome release from anticipating the needs of the friends working at my house.

 

I started at the back with the milk and eggs like I always do.  I grabbed the few items on my list and started to weave through the aisles. I was in the aisles to pick up some pantry items that needed replenishing, and had to go back to get some an item that was overlooked and forgotten. Frustrated, though, that I had to go back, I bought the wrong version of the item.  Who knew that there was baking soda boxes for baking and for your refrigerator?  Anyways, onward I went.  Knowing that I had an extra savings coupon for my whole cart purchase, I also bought some extra items, things that are not on my weekly or biweekly shopping lists since I had the savings.


I got up front and pulled into a check-out lane.  I got out my phone coupons and my credit card only to realize that I left my total purchase coupon in my other purse.  So, I had a cart full of items and no savings to be had.  I bought everything anyway, but was not happy that with all that planning I had overlooked my coupon.  Well, at least I have some chocolate from my grocery purchases to contribute to my mood.