Someone’s in the Kitchen…

Helen and me at my bridal shower ~ 1977

I’m in my kitchen this morning, bustling around, preparing food for an afternoon picnic to celebrate the August birthdays in our family. A granddaughter, a brother, a daughter-in-law and two nieces have dates circled on the calendar this month. And there is one more birthday to remember. My mother-in-law. Helen would have been eighty-eight years old today, had that blasted aneurysm not wrenched her from her beloved Gold Bar home and us over twenty years ago. My kids and I talk so often of how much she would have loved to meet and enjoy her great-grandchildren. She was the grandma who always had a full cookie jar and a pitcher of Kool Aid on a hot summer day. The tire swing, the barn, May Creek cutting through her pasture… So many wonderful memories! It’s no wonder she is on my mind on this warm August morning. I open my cookbook, and she is there, favorite recipes shared with me around her table in her cozy kitchen when I was just a young bride. Her mom’s hot cross buns, her own favorite yeast bread, not to mention Maple Bars… (Oh my yummm), so I find myself taking a break from my task to spend a little time with her.

Helen’s climbing rose from Nugget Ranch in Gold Bar

She grew up in the tiny mountain town of Index, on the banks of the Skykomish River, the youngest of four kids. She loved her hometown so much, and I loved to listen to her stories of going to the Bush House and school picnics at Garland Hot Springs. Her mom, affectionately called, River Grandma, lived almost her entire life in the family home. On the Fourth of July everyone gathered there for potato salad and fried chicken, while we watched the best small town parade march along the street in front of her house.

Homemade Ice Cream~

Easter was celebrated at Helen’s Nugget Ranch. She prayed for sunny weather, planned for rain and expected her whole big extended family to join her for reunion, renewal and the welcoming of Spring. What a pot luck, smorgasbord feast was laid out, everyone contributing their favorite dishes and Helen arranging it on every level surface.

It’s hard to imagine a generation that won’t recognize the name Robert Redford, but in our family, thanks to Helen, he is always with us!

A woman’s kitchen will tell her life story if you take the time to listen; and no kitchen was more anxious to share than my mother-in-law’s. Coming in from the back porch, you were met with strong, black coffee perked on the stove and a cheery, “Hello there!” Sitting at the table she filled you with fresh cookies and news of the valley, and while the conversation buzzed, the kitchen quietly reminded us of family. Pictures of grandkids held on the fridge with ‘I love grandma’ magnates. A teenaged Doug in basketball action framed on the wall. The cookie jar Nancy hand painted for her mom on the counter, and of course pictures of Index pinned around the door jamb. Keeping these memories tucked in my heart, knowing I am adding my own that my kids and grands will one day cherish, brings a smile to my face. I celebrate the past and the lessons learned, and I feel sweet anticipation for the days to come. Today, no longer a young bride, but a grandma, (now older than Helen was when we lost her), I feel her presence with me. I thank her for the lovely visit as I get back to the job at hand, my contribution to the August birthday picnic. Oven fried chicken… coming up!

The view from River Grandma’s Backyard where Helen grew up ~
“There is one thing that is right and true in this world, Family. To watch where we’re going, to know where we’ve been, and to be with us in the end, for comfort and to carry on.” **Lynda Rae Van Wyk

Peace. Love. Amen.

Pretty in Pink~

“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven’t time, and to see takes time ~ like to have a friend takes time.” *Georgia O’Keefe

An afternoon, a blue, cloudless sky, and time… time to see! The first days of summer have tip~toed in, offering a break from the rain and an opportunity to ponder ‘pink’. In my flower beds and boxes, pink blossoms tumble out and turn their faces to the sun. I imagine they are feeling cozy in the warmth, as I am as I stroll around, snipping spent blooms and checking soil moisture. I love to visit with them as I tend, not expecting a response, of course, but to encourage them to carry on, it’s only June, you know!

Great~Grandma Pederslie’s Old Fashioned Rose

Thirty years ago, my grandma’s last brother passed away, leaving the family home on Meadow Lake to his surviving nieces and nephews, of which my dad was one of 15. The place was sold and items dispersed accordingly. This rose rambled beside the old garage. I brought a start home and it grows kind of wild in the corner of my picket fence. It looks like the flowers we made from crepe paper when we were kids. Petal upon petal releasing the absolute, most beautiful fragrance. One rose in a vase scents an entire room, so think of how lovely this corner smells! I gave one to our PUD meter reader yesterday, she took a whiff and said, “Oh Grandma!” Yep.

Jill ~

My sister gave me a start of this pink flower. She called it ‘Lamb’s Tongue’. Bright pink flowers and silver foliage that is soft as velvet might be classified as a weed, but I prefer wild flower. Jill was a flower child and a creative soul and I love having a piece of her to speak to on an early summer day.

Dianthus~

Dianthus! So now that I am taking time to ‘see’ the flower, I notice the edges of the petals are jagged. I am picturing garden fairies with tiny pinking shears trimming them up on moonlit nights. How sweet these fairies are, don’t you agree?

Foxgloves!

See the foxglove… the outer bell is luscious pink, the inner, pale with a speckled throat. I see tiny hairs along the rim, I have never noticed these before! I love to watch the bees in these tall spires, it must seem a smorgasbord to them. This time of year the road sides are a feast for the eye dotted with this majestic wilding.

Ground Cover ~

This little cutie was purchased as a ground cover to grow around the stepping stones. It’s touted as a ‘step~able’. Could you step on these little sweeties? I can’t!

Impatiens~

This is my favorite shade loving annual. I love her spunky nickname, ‘Dizzy Lizzy’ and her blooms that never need dead heading. I buy full seed flats in the spring, and plant the little starts just a few inches apart, so by midsummer she’s a mound of pink beauty.

Million Bells ~

As much as I love impatiens in the shade, I adore Calibrachoa for the full sun. How can these dainty flowers not only survive but thrive in the heat? I myself might wilt a bit, but these troopers carry on. They look like mini petunias, but unlike those sticky sisters, they don’t get leggy and they also don’t require dead heading. They come in so many colors, some single, some double, it’s fun to mix them up in containers and watch them mingle. Their bright color attracts the hummingbirds, which is a much loved added bonus!

Geranium ~

Another old favorite is the geranium. From a distance it appears to be a softball sized flower, but when we really look, we see a flower head consisting of mini flowers opening in unison on sturdy stems. Yes, they do need to be dead headed to enjoy them all summer. A quick snap of the stem when the petals are spent, will encourage continued bloom. The geranium is also a good prospect for ‘wintering over’. It might be hard to think about as we just head into summer, but as we know, the seasons roll along, summer will blend into fall. I remember my grandma keeping geraniums on her back porch through the winter. They’d stay mostly dormant until she coaxed them back to life in the spring.

Gram’s Rose ~

This gem came from hubby’s childhood home in Gold Bar. His mom grew it by her garden gate, and now it climbs next to mine. Dark pink clusters of small fragrant roses, it is loved and enjoyed in our backyard.

An evening ritual is to wander my yard, bucket and snippers in hand. As I tend the flowers through the season, they reward me with continued blooms and natural beauty. The old saying ‘stop and smell the roses’ is great advice, take time, my friend.

Peace. Love. Amen.