Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Seedlings Are In!

My dear friend L came over today and planted summer squash, cherry tomatoes, basil and carrots and radishes in my long under-used (actually unused) side-yard planter box. I can hardly wait to see them grow!

What if we started a victory garden or peace garden program all over the world? First, to commit ourselves to our own gardens. Even a balcony can be a place for a cherry tomato and a few herbs. Those of us fortunate enough to live in houses could have a considerable impact by planting summer vegetables, much like the "Victory Gardens" of World War II. The carbon footprint of tomatoes harvested moments before we eat them from our own yards would be negligible compared to those fruits and vegetables that we import out of season from thousands of miles away from our tables.

Then what if we started a program to send seeds to people who have none? Seeds, or seed money to buy seeds, instead of heavy bags of grain, which are costly to transport. Seeds can be saved from year to year, too, so long as there is sufficient water to grow the plants to maturity.

What if we committed ourselves to sustainable agriculture to save energy and promote peace? What if we made sufficiency instead of profit our goal? Sufficient to our needs--food, shelter, clothing--couldn't we share prosperity for all?

It seems like a reasonable goal to me, rather than sheer idealism. I am glad that I can do my little by offering my space to grow things to friends who can tend the plants. I do hope the harvest will be abundant, so that we can share it, too. It is most fun that way.

The earth is beautiful and so are the plants. I think I still have the genes of my farming ancestors that even here in the heart of Silicon Valley, I want to grow my own food. Thank God for those ancestors. I hope they are harvesting an eternal reward of joy and rejoicing--and resting from their labors.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Catching Up

A few weeks ago this charming bear came into my hug, a gift from my sister in Ohio. (A hug is the technical term for a collection of stuffed bears and animals.)

I love him. He sits with the laptop and the University of Chicago mug. I just wish he could type! (I can't.)

Last week my friend, K, brought this delightful wine-colored iris over when she came to work in my yard. (She has adopted my yard. It looks so much better now for all her expert care.) This is a native California plant that is drought-tolerant and doesn't need fussing. Now that we are over sixty, we are looking for more of these.

Not so showy as its purple, cultivated cousins that I posted several weeks ago, but it has a quiet beauty and elegance all its own.

The first of my mother's "cornflake roses" are blooming almost too soon and too early. I don't quite have the energy to go out and take pictures, but hopefully there will still be some left for M, my chief photographer to work with next week.

I joined Kaboodle this morning. How many of these things are there and how many do we actually need? I'd like to come up with one, that's for sure. Then maybe I could afford to retire after all.

All in the name of self-promotion. I, of course, would just like to have people find me and buy my pretty things without having to toot my own horn. Toot. Toot.

Enough. I go to make dinner. Salad and cheese and avocado. Not low in fat, but very tasty. Folic acid is important to the nervous system (salad), calcium is good for the bones (cheese) and balsamic vinegar will zip it up a bit. Protein is good for everything.

Life is good. I am grateful, albeit slower than I used to be.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Finding Things

Today with the help of a friend, I found my quilter's cutting mat. I have known it was there, been sure that I didn't give it away and no one could find it. It was right were I thought it had been, hiding there quietly all along.

Today was a summer day and the evening is beautiful. It will be warm again tomorrow and then back to cold for a few days this coming week. The light at this time of the year, like the light in the fall, is so ethereal, it is almost poignant. I think it is because it is filtered by leaves. At times today the silence felt as deep as the ocean and it was possible to forget that this area, that had been semi-rural fifty years ago, is becoming so urban. In another year, I will have lived in this house for fifty years--with the exception of six years away for graduate school. That is unusual for this area.

At heart, I think, I might have been a good cloistered nun. One of the great aspects of the monastic life that St. Benedict wrote about in the Rules of St. Benedict was stability. My life has had that in large measure and it has suited my personality. I do not take to change easily or well.

In spite of that though, making changes in the house is finally feeling like an accomplishment; recovering the use of the rooms for their purposes from the clutter that has too long filled them is a blessing. I am grateful to everyone who has been helping in this effort, especially my sister who labors valiantly on her too infrequent visits to get me organized and dear friends who move things around for me when I can't do it myself. One in particular, C, who is a professional organizer has asked me to think about my activities and how and where I do them with an eye to re ordering the spaces. This helps a great deal. Everything does not have to be done at the dining room table. I look forward to gathering around it with friends again for meals, even though, in this war time economy and on my budget, they will most likely be ferial rather than festal. (The book which best puts forth that concept, Robert Farrar Capon's The Supper of the Lamb surfaced last week from the depths of the big book case. I hope to re-read it soon.)

This morning I was delighted to see in my in box that someone commented on my post from yesterday. Thank you, whoever you are.

Friday, April 25, 2008

More Flowers

The poppies a friend planted last fall in my backyard planter box are growing and producing buds. Since the weather is finally warming up again, I am sure there will be flowers soon. I can hardly wait.

Wednesday afternoon I participated in an on-line chat with Cafepress, which is part of it's ongoing training for shopkeepers. It is fun, although slow, because the input loads slowly. This weeks chat was about social networking to promote oneself.

A yes, self-promotion, the thing I do least well. Partly it is the fault the fact that I much prefer to play with designing than selling and promoting and partly it is because everything changes so fast and I do not move or think as fast as I once did.

In addition to waiting for the flowers--the rose bushes are budding too and I hope they will wait to burst forth until my favorite photographer returns home from college in a little over a week--I am revisiting my past life. Three boxes of books went away to a friend's yard sale--I hope they do not return. More are lined up to go on Amazon for sale soon. The house will breathe again. (It is, after all, a pretty house.) Too many interests, too little time. Books on religion, history, smocking (yes smocking) and more books. I am keeping the core of my mystery library--I will read those again, knitting books, sewing books, cookbooks (probably about 500 of these) and gardening books. Old computer books were gotten rid of last summer--no point in keeping Win 98 books around when there are no Win 98 computers left in the house.

With the help of my friend C the books will go away and the ones that are left will be organized. Heaven on earth! Books and organization. (And yes, I do have books on organization, too. Sigh. Did I ever see a book I didn't want? Rarely. Amazon would love me if I could buy all the books on my wish list--but aside from the fact that, fortunately, I can't afford to do that, there wouldn't be any space in the house left to use them! Or to turn around, for that matter.

I look forward to a good weekend exploring some of this net self-promotion, setting up the first books to sell on Amazon and making banana muffins from a recipe that a friend gave me last week that will contain flaxseed meal. The first such and I expect them to be yummy. It was a good week. I am grateful.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Going Green for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day a time to think about recycling, reusing and sustainable agriculture. One of my favorite companies, Mountain Rose herbs is included in the links to the right. (I am an affiliate.) Their philosophy is cohesive with that of Common Ground in Palo Alto, California, one of my favorite places. (I grew seedlings for them for a number of years in the 1980's--thousands of babies growing and being tended and taken to market each year.) This was an experience in urban intensive gardening.

To my pleasure I discovered this morning that the company whose products I rep, Mary Kay, believes in green too. Among the charitable activities that they participate in is tree-planting. For more facts about tress than you have ever known before, I recommend this link
  • http://www.marykay.com/peggymanor/content/company/pinkgreen.aspx
  • . There is also a link there to Arbor Day organization.

    Recycle, of course, but let's also see how we can together consume less. I have been amused to see the ads on tv for tap water! Plant a garden if you possibly can. Buy local from local vendors, handcrafters and the farmers' market. Teach a child to play a musical instrument, sing, cook, knit or sew--all activities not requiring electricity to be "hooked into" something and also not subject to the constant media blitz of our electronic lives. Have a candlelit instead of electrically lit, meal once a week. Set up a compost pile. Make a braided rug out of your old clothes. Co-op shopping trips and carpool for other activities, not only work. Use natural pesticides instead of chemical bug killers. (Soapy water sprays and planting garlic around the roses really does get rid of aphids on roses.)

    Celebrate and give thanks for life on earth and for the earth. Give food to a local food bank and make a contribution to an international charity that will give food to the world's hungriest as the prices rise on all commodities worldwide. Make a difference, praise God and give thanks on this Earth Day.

    Monday, April 21, 2008

    Earth Day Tomorrow

    A friend sent me an e-card with this beautiful quotation from St. Francis of Assisi,
    "All praise be yours, my Lord, through Sister Earth,our mother!" from "The Canticle of the Creatures".

    Starting by praising God for the earth and for all the elements of the earth is a beautiful way to begin our celebration of Earth Day.

    In addition to our usual practical efforts of recycling and looking at how we can reduce consumption, we also might want to reflect on how our economic development relates to the earth, to sharing the planet with all who live on it and to social sin, particularly as Pope Benedict has enunciated the new seven deadly sins for the twentieth century.

    Because it is an election year, we have a unique opportunity to tie this together in a very concrete way by our voting. I have long felt that we need a much more thorough overhaul of our economy than any current politicians are suggesting and we need it soon. We could make it happen with the power and fluidity of the internet.

    After watching a number of news stories on world hunger recently I have come again to doubt the validity of commodity trading. I would like to know the history of this for it clearly affects prices of food and oil (which in turn affects food prices because the food needs to be transported.) We are paying today the speculated price for the product of a month from now--or later. That doesn't seem like a just or useful calculation of price to me, but merely a formula for speculation.

    Yesterday I read another friend's Live Journal blog and was pointed to this article in Vanity Fair on the giant chemical company, Monsanto,
  • http//www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/05/monsanto200805?printable=true¤tPage=all

  • I found this article chilling in that it seems to be a model of how agriculture should not be done and a model of how a giant business can overrun its industry and all of the people in its wake. This is monopoly capitalism run amok. It is a good read for reflection on Earth Day and I recommend it.

    I spent a good part of the weekend loading images on my cafepress store, so that I have a few pretty things to offer for Mother's Day, which is also coming soon.

    Happy Earth Day! Let's give thanks for and take care of our Earth.
  • Friday, April 18, 2008

    The Rose and the Iris

    I have been delighted all week by the presence of roses in my life. My Mr. Lincoln (which I call, Mr Lincoln, I presume because we aren't really sure that it is)is a bonny rose indeed. Large, true red, many petals and an incredible fragrance. As the flower dies, the petals darken and the scent is concentrated. It is a wonderful flower all the way around and will make beautiful potpourri with rosemary, frankincense, myrrh and balsam oil for Christmas.

    It has been joined by a light purple Iris. Each of the colors makes the other "pop" and the stem has two more buds that will bloom over the weekend. It was the gift of my dear friend C who visits on Thursday.

    C also helped me pick up and categorize all the fallen books in my bedroom. Well, I made the decisions, she did the work. Three boxes sit on the piano bench ready to go to her yard sale, or to be sold on the internet or just donated to the Friends of the Library.

    The weather has been so mixed this week that I have had the aches of post polio--imagine a headache that starts at your head and proceeds down your spine and into all your joints. Not fun. So I will be glad when the weather settles a bit more and winter is truly over and done (the flowers already having appeared on the land.)

    Back to my cafepress templates and some designs for Mother's Day.

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    It Looked Like an Earthquake

    Fortunately, it was only a broken shelf, but it was plenty disconcerting. After watching the earthquake episode of Eli Stone last night, I completed my nightly rounds and went to bed. In the bedroom, I saw what had obviously caused the thumping and bumping sounds that I had heard several hours earlier: books on the floor and in a pile where they had been three deep in a cavernous shelving unit. At first, all that I could think of was that we hadn't had an earthquake. Then I realized that my helper and I had been pulling books from the shelf under the one that collapsed to begin the sorting and culling process. There are books here that I had forgotten that I had; books I thought I had given away years ago and the beloved books from my past as a Medieval History Major. All jumbled together. It will take several days--longer than when I first put them in there twenty years ago--to recover them and put them in appropriate boxes.

    Time to sell some on Amazon. Time to let some more go. Here are the pictures.

    I found it highly appropriate that the Bultmann book emerged upside down, since I always thought his demythologizing approach to Scripture was upside down. There are too many books. It will be interesting to see what shape the shelf is in. It looks like it merely slid out of place, but it could be broken. I am grateful it did not happen while I was asleep!

    Sunday, April 13, 2008


    Today I was blessed with a gift of pink sweet peas. I did not realize that they are fragrant. They are so fragile and pretty. The Irises above them are trying to put forth two more flowers. They appear stalled, but they have been so prolific that they can easily be forgiven if they do not bloom again.

    This weekend we have had summer weather, which is a bit too much too soon. Still the silence in the house this morning, without the furnace running, was almost palpable. i reveled in it for several hours for silence is a joy.

    The silence indeed was a contrast to yesterday, for it was so hot that I could not turn on the computers. So I turned on the tv instead, tuning into a marathon of NCSI. I never did see a complete episode from start to finish because I kept going away to do small tasks in other parts of the house and then coming back to pick it up which was another part of another episode.

    I cannot believe that it is the fourth Sunday of Easter already and that April is mostly half over. Too swiftly the time of my life is flying by!

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    TGIF and good news!

    Friday oh how I love you! Today I finally got the link to my niece Jenny's Pampered Chef site. This is good news to me as I have spent an overly large amount of my time trying to find her and not succeeding. The link will be in the links to the right as soon as I finish this post and can add it.

    Pampered Chef is another direct marketing company like Mary Kay only selling kitchen products instead of personal care products. It looks like fun and the products are lovely--I have two bamboo spoons from Jenny's Mom's party. Bamboo is a beautiful material, very earth friendly for it is renewable and it even pleased me to see "made in China", for after all the bamboo grows there (and feeds the Pandas, too.)

    I hope to have a catalog party soon and I am excited for Jenny.

    The Irises continue to produce new buds. There will have been a total of nine flowers so far. I don't know if the last flower that is blooming will produce another bud or not. They are so gorgeous and so much fun to watch.

    I am looking forward to the weekend and tweaking my Etsy shop and cafepress store.

    Wednesday, April 9, 2008

    The Tax Man Cometh

    I paid my property taxes online this morning. They have made this almost painless and seamless now that they take credit cards. The tax collector is actually a woman, tho so that makes the title of this post incorrect.

    Anyway I was struck by the timing--five days before the Federal and State Income taxes are due. Does this make April the dreariest month of all?

    Actually, I don't mind paying taxes. It is part of being a citizen in a democracy, after all. I do wish we could figure out better ways to allocate the tax money after we have paid it. The system of check boxes is one, "I want my taxes to be used for:", "I do not want my taxes to be used for:". It would add to the cost, of course, which would increase the taxes.

    To a brighter subject. The irises have all re-bloomed. So there are three new flowers and one bud. That will make for a total of seven, a perfect number. Seven is the number of the gifts of the Holy Ghost (Spirit). I think I can use every one of them today as I go to battle the income tax forms. (It's the forms and the language of the instructions that makes the process so much of a penance. Of course, if I had done them earlier, they could have been part of my penance for Lent. As it is, I should stop procrastinating and just go do it.) Can't get away from those taxes, even though I am trying to so I guess it's time to make another cup of of coffee and just do them!

    Monday, April 7, 2008

    Weeding is a Way of Life

    Today two friends who are former high school classmates of mine came and did yard work. My yard looks beautiful, my patio is so clean that there is nary a stray leaf in sight and while they weeded a whole long planter box that is almost the length of my house I trimmed a bag of rosemary to dry and pulled weeds.

    The thing about pulling weeds is that is a lot like eating nuts or chips or other snackie munchies--you can't pull one weed any more than you can eat one nut! It was lovely to be out in the sun and exhilarating to pull weeds until I came in and realized how tired I am! Thank goodness for Ibuprofen--what would I do without it?

    The next stage in the garden is to plan where to put some of the things that are overgrowing their pots--and then get new plants for the pots! Iris and calla lily and mystery bulbs await replanting. A long planter box is full of herbs that would probably each like a nice deep pot of its own. There are four rose bushes growing on the front porch that probably should be in the ground. One snags me every time I go past as though to say, "plant me, plant me."

    The Irises on the counter have changed overnight. One flower completely withered and drew in while a bud near it grew and grew and was completely open this morning. Another is going through the same process and I have been watching it all day. A third is just starting to curl in and I think there is another bud behind it. It is a real illustration of the cycle of life and of transformation happening before my eyes. It is amazing, heart gladdening and humbling all at the same time.

    Sunday, April 6, 2008


    A friend brought purple and white irises yesterday from her garden. I gasped in awe at how gorgeous these flowers are and immediately thought of my niece, J whose favorite color is purple. I have been on the lookout for all things purple for over twenty years now because of this and have come to love the color myself.

    These flowers are large, frilly and showy. They are not fragrant, which may be a good thing since they would be likely to be overpowering if they were fragrant. One has already closed making way for a bud behind it that is half grown. I am curious to see if it will open.

    I was curious about the "beard", the little furry protrusion that looks like a tongue, or a white caterpillar on each of the lower, outer petals. After looking at it and wheeling by it a number of times, finally I couldn't resist and I had to touch it. Was it soft was the reason for my curiosity? Yes, as soft as a bee's body or a kitten's fur. I am amazed even more. (And yes, I know that a bee's body is soft for I touched one once and no he did not sting me.)

    All in all the flowers made for a delightful Sunday along with a lunch of spinach bolani and some watching of the Lord of the Rings on television. I am grateful for all of these good things.

    It is the second Sunday after Easter and almost too chilly and gray to feel like either Easter or Spring. Still this season will speed by all too quickly.

    Please note: the photographs are copyright 2008 Marguerite Manor

    Friday, April 4, 2008

    Time Slips Quietly By

    Over the last few days I have spent a considerable amount of time loading things onto Etsy, paying this month's bills and tending my Mary Kay business. There is an old adage that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I am glad to report that I am still capable of learning new things. Today I even conquered a new thing on Facebook--loading my Etsy things onto it and positively glowed and crowed with the thrill of achievement.

    Today a friend brought flaxseed meal from one of our nicer, high end grocery stores, Piazza's in Palo Alto. I am determined to develop a yummy, healthy muffin to serve with our lunches that will fit his diet (and mine by default).

    My friend, C, helped me take product pictures yesterday and we are both learning about our limitations--she has just had hip replacement surgery and I trundle along with this life-time disability. At the same time we are both learning more about what my digital camera will do and it is considerably more fun to share in this than to try to do it alone.

    Tomorrow will be the day for household chores. The laundry and the dishes await and I will put some more items up on Etsy and also, I hope, turn my attention to editing a project of mine that I hope to have up on Lulu soon.

    Wednesday, April 2, 2008

    Making Progress Slowly

    Today seems to be one of the slowest days I've had in a long, long time. The Internet keeps timing out; the weather is gray and chilly. I wish it would just actually rain! The world's largest rosemary was alive with small birds when I looked out at it a little while ago. I think they are eating the seeds, for the bush had been covered in blue flowers a few days ago. Maybe this is why rosemary never self-sows--there aren't enough seeds left.

    The birds are pretty, little yellow and black finches. Not as charming or as aggressive as the hummingbirds, but fun to watch.

    I have been working on loading items onto my Etsy shop where there about 100,000 shops. Not as many as on Cafepress, but still plenty of people. I find it heartening that there is a community of people still trying to make things by hand, truly beautiful things, and to make a living in the process. Artisans and crafts people are competing against mass produced goods, hand-crafts from underdeveloped countries where the cost of living is much lower and each other. (Hmm. Maybe I should move to an underdeveloped country.)

    I joined Etsy last year and it has taken me this long to figure out how to put things up on it and what things will work. In the interval, I notice that they have begun posting serious articles to help people run their businesses as businesses and I hope to learn from these articles. I hate to see so many things under priced and yet am afraid to just jump in and price mine higher. The point, after all, is to find buyers!

    Maybe building a business is a little like gardening: some days it needs fallow time and there is also weeding to do too. The ideas that aren't worth pursuing, the customer list that needs shortening, seeds to plant. I work at some of the things I do because I like to work with my hands. Too frequently I find that most of the hand-work that I've done in a day is typing; not creative at all and not fulfilling, but necessary.

    The underdeveloped country is starting to look more attractive. Still I am grateful for a place to work in peace, light and heat and that the days are getting longer.

    Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Weeding as a Way of Life

    Today I had the good fortune to be outdoors for a while, weeding and surveying my little domain. The rosemary really is a monster that looks like it wants to take over the patio. (I joke that it is the rosemary that is trying to take over the county.)The potted plants were looking pretty forlorn and in need of water. I hauled two plastic jugs out and watered them.

    Weeding is like so many of the other mundane jobs of life. A few minutes here, a few minutes there. You can see were you have been and what you have accomplished. Housework is like that, especially washing dishes and folding laundry.

    Weeding as a way of life has other analogies though. Routing out the clutter in our lives, physically and mentally is like weeding. A little here, a little there and space is cleared: we can see where we have been.

    Habits can be another form of weed, especially when they are the old Catholic venial sins. Pulling them up one at a time can make for a fresh start. Like weeds, like clutter they will keep creeping back and we will have to pull them again.

    Tomorrow there will be a few new weeds and more plants to water. If I'm really energetic I'll clip a little rosemary from the bottom where it is shaggy and littered with leaves and drop it into the toter. If not, another day. The garden is patient and will grow whether I tend it or not, as long as there is sufficient water.

    Typos are like weeds too, so that makes proofreading another form of weeding. I am grateful that I can come back and edit--but wish I'd just remember to preview first before this goes out to the world!