autumn recalls…a bad memory

Crimson Carpet of Autumn Leaves

Image by Visualist Images via Flickr

Autumn in Connecticut remains one of my fondest memories…driving along country roads flanked on either side by trees awash in brilliant oranges, reds, yellows and rusts. My young daughter would often remark at her good fortune, being born in Redding…a rural town surrounded by more commercialized ones like Danbury Ridgefield, and Westport. I agreed. We were indeed lucky. Folks drove from far and wide to savor what we awoke to…every day. My husband and I still enjoy the seasonal change here in the Pacific Northwest, but the east coast remains the mecca for Mother Nature‘s “changing of the guard.”

One memory that will forever be interlaced with pleasanter ones of Fall foliage is my one and only brush with poison ivy. Actually, it was more like a wholehearted embrace of the menacing vine.

Without a home of her own, my mom would live with my various siblings and me for extended periods of time. Once she spent more than a year with us in Redding, It was from her that I inherited my love of gardening. We enjoyed time outdoors, on our knees, digging in the dirt. We’d often sit on the front porch of our small, 100-year-old Victorian farmhouse admiring our handiwork…flowers blooming…bees, butterflies and birds hovering…to snack on the delicacies spread before them.

Autumn fallen leaves of Zelkova serrata

Image via Wikipedia

The “fly in the ointment,” however, were dead leaves that had accumulated on our property alongside the road. From my mom’s bedroom window, she could see those leaves. For her it was a daily reminder that a passerby could flick a lit cigarette or match out his car window…and woosh!…a brush fire. 

My mom’s distress at the thought of a fire, pressed her to try and light one under my butt. Not something I, or my husband wanted to do on the weekends, after commuting and working in NYC all week. We assured her that all property owners blew fallen leaves to the edges of their property, where they were left to decompose. My mom was not swayed. She never let up trying to make her paranoia mine. What finally coerced me to rake and bag the leaves was my mom’s threat to do it herself. Need I say more?

Extinct?

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr

I threw myself wholeheartedly into cleaning up the entire bank of our property that sloped down towards the road. Since it was a warm, summer day, and I was a naive, Hawaiian, I undertook the cleanup in shorts, ti-shirt…and bare hands. Once I got going, I was determined to do a great job in ridding the area of all debris.

And so for hours I raked leaves, scooping up handsful, emptying them into trash bags. Entangled in the leaves were vines. I decided they too needed to go. I proceeded to do battle with all vines that got in my way. At day’s end it felt good to survey all that I’d accomplished. My mom’s smiling approval was the icing on my cupcake.

Found the lotion

Image by T Hall via Flickr

My happiness was short-lived. A couple of days later my entire body was one giant itch. I didn’t have enough fingers to scratch myself into lasting relief. There wasn’t enough chalomine lotion in the drug store to afford relief either. The worse aspect, if anything could be worse, was having to go to work.

Commuting to and from my job as a paralegal at TWA was nerve-wracking. I wanted to scratch. Sitting in my office all day, I scratched while researching and writing briefs for arbitrations. Spots of pink medicine covered my arms, legs, neck and face. I wasn’t a pretty sight, that’s for sure.

Steamy Shower

Image by SweetCapture via Flickr

After a long day in NYC, I would return home, jump in the shower and stand under the hottest water I could bear. That numbed my skin, providing the most relief, however temporary. My doctor finally prescribed prednisone. It was a God-send, for it permanently cured my overall itch…from the inside out.

You can imagine my ongoing fear of vines. I don’t touch it unless I am certain what it is…like ivy…nasturtiums…or my favorite, clematis. One introduction to poison ivy was all I needed to know…

This is an old poison ivy vine from my backyard

Image via Wikipedia

…been there…done that…not going to do it again…ever…

………hugmamma.

weekly photo challenge: fall

One of the scariest times of the year…Fall!!! And one of my daughter’s favorities! So it’s always a gift of love when I can decorate her apartment to BOOring in the holiday season. These photos are a reminder of some fun times in her previous apartment.

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…trick-or-treat…can’t be beat…give me something good to eat…or else…i’ll make you smell my feet…(not a good proposition)

………hugmamma.  😉

autumn, on the east coast

I’m back visiting with my daughter in the east where Fall is happening, if only somewhat. Walking around the surrounding neighborhoods and nearby park, it felt like summer had made a comeback. I wished I’d thought to pull a baseball cap down over my brow, for the sun was beating down relentlessly. Whenever  possible I’d wander down tree-lined streets, reveling in the overhead shade.  Every now and then, a passing breeze cooled my cheeks. Only then could I gaze about, observing the stately homes that sat in the midst of lush, green lawns, as though they were holding court.

Here and there, chrysanthemum filled planters  emblazoned front stoops with autumn hues of reds, golds, oranges. Flower beds were weeded, some sporting dried hay, ready for winter. I felt a momentary sense of dread, as I thought of the overgrown garden awaiting me at home. It’s been in need of some serious TLC for several months.

Right or wrong, I’ve always favored a garden where plants grow in close proximity, like good friends and neighbors. Eventually, weeding is down to a minimum, a great benefit. Bending over to pull bits of unwanted green from the soil is back-breaking work. Regardless of the gizmos and gadgets I’ve invested in through the years, weeding is still a pain, worsening as I’ve aged. Heavy weeding in early spring, means regular visits to my chiropractor for adjustments.  I’ve finally heeded her advice to take periodic breaks while working in the garden. No more all day benders.

The disadvantage of growing plants too closely is that my garden eventually resembles a mini jungle. Making my way down the pebbled path that winds its way through the midst of the garden, I often think I should carry a machete to lop off overhanging branches from the Buddleia (butterfly) bush and the pink flowering dogwood tree, and cut back tall stalks of Rudbeckia daisies and overgrown Sedum. But pruning 2 or 3 times during the growing season, more than compensates for weed control throughout. So I’ll gladly keep my mini jungle.

I often think my daughter has the best of both worlds. She lives in an apartment complex with lovely landscaping, cared for by a team of maintenance men. I’d love to supervise my own caretakers. But I’m biding my time, for when my husband retires he promises to tend the garden, leaving me to manage the house. Great! No more weeding. And no more worrying that I’ll come face to face with a bear, as I round the corner of my garage. Until then, I’m still weeding, pruning AND worrying.

autumn, hugs for…hugmamma.

portuguese bean soup, recipe

Here in the Pacific Northwest autumn doesn’t sneak up on us, it merely takes a coffee break letting summer step in for a quick 15 minutes. So while elsewhere around the country citizens were barbecuing for months, we never once took the cover off our grill. And regardless what month of the year, I’m always perusing cookbooks and magazines for cold weather recipes, especially soups and stews. Because some of my relatives are faithful readers I decided to share the following recipe, which is a staple of some Hawaiian families. Having said that, I can’t explain why our family ate such hearty fare in the hot tropics. Never thought of it until now. But there’s really no rhyme or reason to why island locals eat what they eat. If it’s “ono,” (tasty) it’s a no-brainer, we’ll eat it.

The first time I can recall eating Portuguese bean soup was at the monthly “Hui Akoni Hemolele” meeting. As the name implies, it was a club to which native Hawaiians belonged, although there were members of other ethnicities, like Japanese and Portuguese. A few men belonged, but the majority were women. My mom had served as an officer a couple of times. Once a month they would all attend a particular Mass to worship. Immediately afterwards they would gather at the church hall, where everyone would be updated on the club’s current affairs. My brother and I would accompany my mom, waiting impatiently until the breakfast of Portuguese bean soup and Portuguese sweet, or white, bread, with butter, would be served. I can still picture the huge steaming pots, from which the serving women would ladle spoonfuls of the thick, homemade soup, heavily laden with chunks of meat, potatoes, carrots and cabbage. It was heaven on earth to eat food that even God would want served at His table. I exaggerate, but that’s how wonderful it tasted, especially for my brother and I who weren’t use to eating an abundance of red meat in those days. I think we thought ourselves extremely lucky if we ate hamburgers.

When the talking finally ceased, members seconding the motion to adjourn, and the short capes of yellow and red bird feathers removed from around their shoulders, we knew that signaled “Let’s eat!” My brother and I didn’t need to be asked twice. We made a beeline for the food. I think my mom would bring up the rear, because she’d always get sidetracked talking with this person, and that person. But the soup never seemed to run out before everyone got their helping. Sometimes there was enough leftover, so we took a potful home. Lucky, lucky us!

I have several recipes for this soup, this being one of the simplest. I’ve not made Portuguese bean soup since Christmas, so I’m starting slow. At some point I may cook the version that has many more ingredients, including papaya which is a natural meat tenderizer. So as the cold season unfolds, I’ll post one or more recipes for this delicious concoction. If you’re wondering why Hawaiians cooked a food traditional to the Portuguese, the short answer is decades ago they were brought to the islands to serve as “lunas” (bosses) on the pineapple plantations. They oversaw the laborers, first the Chinese, followed by the Japanese and finally, the Filipinos. With the influx of these nationalities, came a melting pot of foods, which became Hawaiian food as we know it today, a smorgasbord of this and that. Still my favorite, I’d easily double my body weight if I were a resident. I’d have a plate lunch of beef teriyaki, spam, portuguese sausage, macaroni salad, and rice, instead of a Big Mac and fries any day of the week. Bring it on…

Meanwhile hope you try this recipe, enjoying its hearty flavors near a blazing fire on a cold, wintry Fall evening, or on your lanai, in the shadow of the setting Hawaiian sun, the gentle ocean breezes lightly caressing your cheeks.

PORTUGUESE BEAN SOUP

  • 2 lb Portuguese sausage, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (if unavailable, try another sausage, like Kielbasa)
  • 1 lb ham hock
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1 small cabbage, chopped
  • 1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
  • 2 cans (15 oz size) red kidney beans, including liquid

Put sausage, ham hock, and onion into a large pot; add water. Cover and cook on low heat for 1 hour. Remove meat from ham hock. Put meat back into soup and add carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and tomato sauce; cover and continue cooking for 1-1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Stir in beans, including liquid, and cook a few more minutes, adding more water if necessary. Makes 12 servings.

hmmm, onolicious…hugmamma.