Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Lavender is one of the most beautiful herbs that can be planted in a garden. In a Mediterranean climate the plants will last a very long time. Mine is over twenty years old. Even when it is not blooming, it is a lovely plant and while the flowers are used for culinary, medicinal, decorative and personal care products, the leaves are also fragrant.

Here is my one remaining lavender plant in bloom

I believe that this particular lavender plant is English lavender. My favorite, Hidcote, which was a deeper, bluer color, died out a few years ago. It was planted too close to the edge of the planting bed and did not have enough room. After a decade, lavender will be a big plant, so give it plenty of room.

Culinary uses include Lavender Sugar (see the link to the Spice House at the right), Lavender Chocolate cupcakes, lavender syrup (think addition to lemonade), and all kinds of scones, cupcakes and cookies. Lavender sugar is delicious on toast as a lovely way to start off the day.

Medicinal uses include headache remedies and little dream pillows to aid in sleep. Lavender has such a strong fragrance though, that many people find it overwhelming. It can make a headache worse if you are one of the people who has a sensitivity to it.

Decorative uses include bouquets, both fresh and dried, and wreaths. Lavender sachets can fill a bowl and will make a much nicer air freshener than anything manufactured in a spray can or plug-in. Lavender sachets have long been used in linen chests and closets with stored clothes and shoes. Nice in suitcases too!

Lavender soap is beautiful and lavender is used in fragrances as well.

Here is a big bowl of my lavender sachets. The day that I was working on them, I found them to be so pretty that I had to bring them altogether.

I love the charm squares, small squares of fabric that are pre-cut as part of the quilting industry and the pretty ribbons. Making these brings together my love of plants and my love of fabric and color. The sachets would be pretty on a wreath, too.

I am grateful for the fine old plant that still graces my garden and for the lovely fabrics that I am finding from other Etsy sellers. Grateful, too, for the beautiful, fine weather we are enjoying now that summer is here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Today, I have been remembering my father, who died eleven years ago today. He was the soul of patience and kindness and one of the most devout (although private about it) Catholics I have ever known. I still miss him, although I think it is fair to say that I no longer grieve except in the general sense perhaps, that grieving, like original sin, is a part of the human condition.

I lit a candle for him on Gratefulness.org http://bit.ly/9e9ZxN Gratefulness is one of my all time favorite web sites. I was intrigued the very first time that I found it that it is possible to light the candle by clicking on the link--and then the flame flickers! It is lovely.

Papa was a handsome man, with the good looks known as "black Irish"--dark, dark brown hair with red and gold highlights, thick, curly hair and green eyes. He also had long, dark eyelashes. Mama commented on both the hair and the eyelashes in a kind of sighing, life-isn't-fair-tone, that men had all the luck. (Of course, I am sure that both attributes had helped attract her to him in the first place!)

He was not tall, but he was strong. Working after school and on weekends while he was young unloading groceries at the store's dock and stocking shelves had done for him what gym workouts do for young men today. Shoveling snow and using a push mower on the lawns of our houses as well as walking the dog kept him in shape until emphysema began to assert itself when he was in his sixties.

Shortly before I had polio, Papa was teaching me to ride a two-wheeled bike, with the "training wheels" gradually being raised on the back of it and I remember that Fall that he was teaching me to roller skate as well. He walked backwards, gently holding my hands, while I skated towards him until I could let go and then he was simply there to lend me confidence that he would catch me if I fell.

"Confidence that he would catch me if I fell", that sums up a lot about the the good fatherly relationship that he had with both his daughters. He was there for us in so many ways that we didn't even realize then, for we took it as normal that both parents would be there, but that now we look back from the vantage point of aging and see it for the tremendous gift that it was.

He took me to the airport with all my trunks and suitcases and just plain stuff when I left home for graduate school in Chicago. A few years earlier he had proudly walked my sister down the aisle of the little church we loved so much in Palo Alto, watching a few days later as her new husband's car and the u-haul it pulled rounded the corner and they drove out of sight, beginning the journey of their new life together in Ohio.

So many years later, eleven years ago this week, we all came together again as the choir he loved, and that I had once sung with, sang him home to his new life after death. I do not believe in eternal "rest", since I think it is too passive. I do hope for eternal rejoicing and I hope that includes a good bit of remembrance and reminiscing. (Papa was also blessed with the Irish gift of gab and a great story-teller.)

I don't believe that our culture values fatherhood enough, and I think that I have written about that before, here in this blog. I can remember that Papa did not like the sit-coms that were popular in the late 50's and early 60's because they made the fathers look like such dummies--or even fall-guys for the patient and always right wife, or the too smart kid. He most certainly did not fit that model!

I am grateful today for the life of this good man and the great gift of family life that I was given as a child. Grateful too for the way in which my parents instilled the old-fashioned virtues by living them every day in their marriage and their relationship to us.

It is good to have had such a father.

Frederick James Manor

February 16, 1920-June 8, 1999

Requiescat in Pace

Rejoice with the angels forever.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blooming Now, Poppies in My Garden

Poppies, pink, coral and red have been putting on a show for most of the last month. For a time they were joined by delicate, pale blue love-in-mist. The effect was quite pretty. For the last week the poppies have made me think of Flanders Field--"the poppies blow, between the crosses row on row." It is so appropriate that the bloom around the time of Memorial Day. Here are a friend took yesterday with my camera when he joined me for lunch.

According to various seed sources I have consulted, poppies come in red, pink, lavender, coral, gold, purple and even white. I would like to see the whole array of colors planted and blooming somewhere.

Summer has come. The weather is warm, highs in the seventies. The windows are open letting in the most delicious breezes as well as the sounds of suburban life--doves cooing mixed with leaf blowers. Ah, well! The house is a bit stuffy in the evenings, but fairly comfortable. The transition from winter habits to summer ones goes gently, although I fear the time is coming for ice water, wet cloths around my neck and fans going to a noise level that makes me feel I will lose my mind. I hope not and am determined to enjoy this respite of near perfection for the time it lasts.

I am grateful for the poppies, the friend who planted them, who is now sailing down the coast of Ecuador to Peru with her husband on their boat. (See the link to the blog Sea of Change, if you would like to follow this adventure.) I think of her when I watch the poppies waving in the breeze.

I am thankful too, for trees, which lend their shade and soughing sound as the wind passes through to the ambiance of gentle summer days.