September Summer

October has begun and with it will come falling leaves. But even the weather takes its own time in the South. Our uncharacteristically mild summer stayed all through September, urging folks to go one last time to the pool or to take a nap in the sun.  Cooler days are forecast for next week, but before they get here I just want to linger a moment over some late summer pleasures. DSC_0108 I’ve spent the waning weeks of summer enamored with this farro and chickpea salad. With the zing of za’ atar,  this salad is perfect for hot days.DSC_0091I took my friend R. through my yard so he could practice using his new camera. He gleefully snatched up a passion fruit off the vine and demonstrated how he used to eat them when he lived out in the country.DSC_0068We documented the flowers’ demise, DSC_0102the day’s deepening shadows,IMG_3051and how the blue of the sky peeked through the pergola roof.
IMG_3014On another warm Saturday I helped a friend with a yard sale. I put a few things out  to sell but my friend sold more than I did. Could the figure above have jinxed me?DSC_0060One  lovely Sunday night I made some fish tacos for an al fresco dinner.DSC_0063DSC_0066And it tasted as good as it looked.IMG_3065Finally, we met some friends at the Levitt Shell to hear an outstanding concert by the Memphis Dawls. Usually summer is a season I tolerate but do not enjoy. Humidity is not my friend. But thanks to these last mild weeks I’m able to usher it out with kinder regard than ever before. Goodbye, summer, and thanks for each moment and memory!

And how about all of you? What late summer fun did you enjoy?

Magpie Monday

Every so often, from some unknown source, magic fairy dust sprinkles down on me to make the day a Magpie Day. On Magpie Days I flit from one shiny little activity to another, which in itself sounds like one of my favorite days, but there’s more. On Magpie Days, everything is shiny!

I used to think the days happened because I just happened to be at home on a beautiful day, or because I didn’t have a lot of scheduled meetings, or because  stayed in my pajamas until noon. My research, however, has proven my theories incorrect. In the interests of science I will confess here that on many days I have stayed home, but found the day tedious. On other days I have had no appointments, yet spent the day in a decidedly inglorious fashion, sorting through  mismatched socks and piles of old papers.  And  experience has shown that spending the day one’s  pajamas does not necessarily lead to a  state of heightened awareness.

Just yesterday morning I came to realize the futility of trying to predict the likelihood of a Magpie Day. I was preparing to cook some brussels sprouts I had had in the refrigerator for a week. My shins and ankles were sore from having worn, for a special occasion, a pair  of black strappy  heels the night before. Newspapers and mail were strewn all over the countertop in a way that normally causes me to feel paralyzed with ennui.

Thus far the day was not promising, Yet, as I tossed the brussels sprouts with ghee in the saucepan, a little voice from somewhere urged, “Go get your camera.” With those four magic words, Magpie Day was ON. As I joyfully scurried around the kitchen tending to my brussels sprouts, the detritus spread on the countertops seemed to melt away. ( Actually I cleaned it up.)

Brussels sprouts ingredients.

Brussels sprouts ingredients.

DSC_0339Removing the newspapers made  me  think I really should add some coffee grounds and paper to the soil of my dormant garden. While the sprouts simmered inside, I  yanked up weeds to prepare a place to spread my amendments, and right there, among the early weeds was a darling sliver of lettuce. Naturally I had to run in the house and fetch my camera.

How did this darling live through the winter?

How did this darling live through the winter?

Greens are hardy as ever.

Greens are hardy as ever.

I never get tired of watching the light come through the pergola.

I never get tired of watching the light come through the pergola.

Time didn’t actually stop for me, but it seemed to on Magpie Day. What could be more  luxurious than feeling an abundance of time in which to be absolutely in each moment? For whatever reason, that is how my day was yesterday. I was inside; I was outside. I was upstairs making plans for my niece’s portrait. I was downstairs writing a letter to my sister. I was getting ready for yoga; I was face timing my daughter. And it was timeless.

Letter to my sister.

Letter to my sister.

Of course there was time to read. That is a default activity.

Of course there was time to read. That is a default activity.

And time to learn a few new Turkish words. Hello!

And time to learn a few new Turkish words. Hello!

I need to take that color wheel upstairs where I keep my paint. And I need some new paint.

I need to take that color wheel upstairs where I keep my paint. And I need some new paint.

AND this cute top came in the mail!

AND this cute top came in the mail!

The narrative of my day would not matter to anyone else but me. I accomplished nothing fit for my  memoirs, but I  will remember the peace, the joy, and the process of yesterday for a long time. No, Magpie Days cannot be predicted or planned, only enjoyed and savored. I’m up for that. How about you? Any Magpie Days lately?

In the yoga studio.

In the yoga studio.

Fall: A Quiet Welcome

Shhh! The weather has ears! Pass it on! Don’t let your neighbors, after a day of vigorous gardening  exult about the glorious moderate temperatures we are having here in the South. Stop your spouse before he can say out loud how invigorated he feels after washing the cars in the perky  sunshine. Write in your journal; don’t talk  about the delicate breezes you felt this morning on the patio, or  that you could sit on the patio at all.  Because we all know that speaking in superlative terms about the glorious fall weather causes the crisp, clean air to devolve into a sticky miasma, the carefree butterflies to be replaced with menacing mosquitoes, and the rays of the sun to turn from a soft blanket into a relentless roasting ember.

After a lifetime in the South, I know to take advantage of the brief  weather respites, quickly and quietly. Excruciating  heat is always right around the corner, and it is not too  late for us to have more of it. This past Saturday morning, finding myself with no other pressing duties, I slipped out of the house with my camera, walking very softly, in shoes that covered my toes instead of flip flops.

The mission was to enjoy oops, observe how my plants were faring thus far in October. Would I find that my plants had  survived the summer making the best of things  with their heads facing down for protection from the sun? Had some been able to revive themselves after a recent rain? Had others, largely untended by me, given up the struggle? Which of my so enthusiastically placed plants would live to brave another summer? Here are the results!

First I contemplated the gourd vines. After some weeks of thinking I was watering them for no purpose, baby gourds  have  appeared! I don’t think they will grow to cover the pergola this year as originally planned.

But that’s alright with me. I think the pergola is lovely all by itself.

These asters are making a late appearance. The Four O’Clocks are going strong. These came up from seed.There is still lots  of trusty Century Vine.

I’ll be expecting more peppers and okra. I’ve had some lovely eggplants too but I didn’t see any new blossoms on them. These cosmos of course are not ready to give up the ghost. I planted these from seed and they grew six feet tall even after I trimmed them back several times.The sweet potato vine is vigorous, and adding nice color and texture to the pool deck.There is no shortage of lantana blooms. I think the plant  is trying extra hard to be pleasing, as it barely escaped being uprooted  and sent , like an unruly child, to North Carolina this summer.But fig season is certainly over. The changing leaves will not be far behind.

As long as everyone knows I am whispering to avoid an adverse change in weather  I will confess that I never feel so alive as I do in the fall. The very air with its nippy breezes suggests change and excitement. The swirling gold and orange leaves glow with brilliance. The mornings may be cool,  but when the sun comes up we will be bathed in warmth that is just the right temperature. For the moment my garden is enjoying all of this right along with me. I hope you enjoy it as well!

But Wait…There’s More!

Raise your hand if you are ready for the next installment of Project Pergola. To recap, other people besides myself had worked for two weekends prepping and building the pergola. Now we will hear  the tale of the third weekend. 

If you have read my previous post you now know that the plan was after erecting the frame and large joists, old shutters would be attached to the top of the structure to add visual interest and more complex shade patterns.

To prepare to attach the shutters, they had to be arranged in such a way that they could be attached to two joists. Here, in the rain, joists are put out at accurate  distances.

Here are the shutters arranged so that the builders could  see where they would  attach to the joists.( I hope all this makes sense. I can only tell the story the way I understand it. ) The strips of blue tape are from where I had previously numbered the shutters to avoid disagreement and confusion during construction. However, (insert loud throat clearing sound) the aforesaid strategy did not  achieve the goal specified. Some of the numbers were washed off by the rain. We were all walking around with several shutters in our hands, trying not to trip over ourselves or the joists. My husband and I wound up  crouched down at opposite rows of shutters, each trying to rearrange the shutters  from our own end, causing each other to be off by just one shutter,  and making meaningful remarks to one another such as, “But that won’t work!”, “It works fine. Just follow the numbers!” and, “Never mind, just do it the way you want.” Our son wisely stood in a shady corner and said not a word. From the photo you can see that the shutters were eventually arranged.

Next the holes were predrilled.

And a shutter goes up!

Here is view from the top of the ladder. 

It didn’t take long before the whole thing started looking pretty cool.I love, love, love, the shade patterns! And I love the shapes of all the component parts!

This little vine is supposed to grow on the pergola. But it doesn’t look too healthy here.

Look at the pattern on the chimney!

Here they are finishing up with the electrical wiring for the fan and an electrical outlet.

Is anyone missing any tools?

After the shutters were attached and duly admired, more joists were  added.

Two different sized joists were added between every large joist.

The joists were slightly different heights, and added to the overall shade patterns.And we’re finished! Actually we are short one board that we can’t  buy and put on until next weekend, but I’m going to call it finished. Except for the fan. And furniture. But we will leave that for another day.


And after. Even this little critter is pleased! What wonderful fun this whole process has been! I haven’t decided what to put underneath the pergola yet in the way of furnishings, except for a rug and a fan. If anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them. Thanks for coming along on this journey with me!

Pergola III

It’s time for a pergola update! In my last installment I left you with the concrete poured for the posts. Today we pick up with construction. First I ordered all this lumber.

There was more lumber, but you get the picture. All was in readiness for the pergola designer and his lovely wife to fly in  for the weekend, he to help build the pergola, she, to lounge by the pool. Bright and early in the steamy Saturday air the construction began.

Initially some time was devoted to measuring and mulling. It seems that the posts were a bit  wide for the brackets to which they would be attached, so some shaving of the posts had to be done. Then they decided to carve a more decorative top to the posts.

Now they were ready to attach the beams to the posts. This process involved big silver bolts. 

During this time a third minion had arrived to help. The three of them attempted to lift the post and beams.

But it took a little more muscle to lift the structure past the 45 degree point. I wouldn’t even want to guess how heavy this was.

Luckily your author and the designer’s wife were on hand to lend some brawn to the effort. We all held our part of the post until it was attached to the brackets.

And it’s up!

See how pretty?

And on to the next side! These sweet guys worked all day in the 100 degree heat. I surely raised some good sons.Meanwhile, the designer’s darling wife worked on her tan.I provided fresh pitchers of ice water, took photos and made cold salads for my workers. Workers must be fed. It has ever been so.In the evening they had all the ribs they wanted. But I didn’t take any pictures of that.

And here we are the second day raising the second side in the rain. 

As the sun popped back out the first temporary joist was installed.

Here is the first real joist.

And more joists.

This joist was  thicker because it will hold a fan.

All the main joists were now  attached. We could  already see that when finished the pergola would provide some lovely shade patterns. Why is the designer putting shutters on top of the structure? You’ll just have to wait for the next post to find out!

Here is a nice side view.

And another nice side view?

Here are two thirds of the work crew at the end of the day. It’s so much fun going back and looking at this process.  Our  family’s times together are too short, but so filled with joy and laughter. The beams and the joists were properly placed, but the real prize was how we as a family all fell into place, helping, loving, appreciating. That’s the best design of all.

Project Pergola II

Disclaimer # !:  My last post, Project Pergola, did not show you an actual pergola.  It was more about documenting the abject need for such a structure, and how I, not the actual pergola builders, was involving myself in the process by gutting the adjacent eyesore of a flower bed.

Of course I was not intentionally misleading you; it’s just that stories have many chapters which build upon one another. Endings are more rich and resonate more fully when the reader has an appreciation for all that went before. And we all know that it is the process, not the content, that informs our hearts and relationships.You’ll thank me one day.

Today however, i will show you some actual prep for an actual pergola. This leads me to disclaimer # 2: We won’t be able to consider this a tutorial, because I did not do the actual work. I can show you the pictures, and tell you what I think was happening. And hopefully you will feel part of the process. Here goes!

Here is where we left off. The first prep step after agreeing on a design created by our generous and talented son, was to dig holes for the posts, like so.

The bracket you see will eventually hold one of the four posts. Next, a round cardboard collar was inserted into the holes to hold the concrete.

After all four holes were dug, there seemed to be some measuring activity going on. I believe it had to do with whether all the four cardboard collars were level with one another. Stringing twine up across the patio also made crossing from one end to the other  a more adventurous  experience for all.

The next step was connecting access to electricity. Having an electrician  brother in law on the scene is highly recommended.

Now we will be able to have lighting and a fan in the pergola.

Uh oh. Mixing cement takes awhile. I guess I’ll find other photographic subjects for the time being.

When my pergola is finished I’ll be as happy as this verbena!

Here you see one of the four holes filled in with cement and a bolt to which the bracket will be attached. 

And finally here is one of the same cemented holes, with the bracket attached. Now all we have to do is actually BUILD the pergola!!! But not today; the cement has to set more and we don’t have the lumber yet. Have I mentioned that I am so impatient to have this pergola  built that I would like to rip my clothes and gnash my teeth? Well, that won’t get me anywhere. I’ll just take a few  more photographic subjects while I wait ! 

Thanks for stopping by!