Spring Into a New Year

Last week marked the start of my favorite season, the appearance of sunnier skies and fragrant flowers, the 23rd anniversary of my marriage and the approach of Easter. For me, as for most people, springtime initiates deep cleansing and fresh starts.

Beautiful sunrises, clear skies and fresh air provide renewed energy and lead to more positive outlooks.

hyacinthsHouse windows open, letting in the scents of blossoming flowers and budding trees. Birds appear on windowsills and chirp as they fly to their new nests. Children squeal with delight while playing in their yards. Neighbors emerge from their homes and chat as they stroll in the evenings or work in their gardens.

Store shelves burst with gardening supplies, birdseed, short-sleeved clothes, Easter baskets and jelly beans.

Several years ago, a good friend introduced me to Nowruz, the Persian/ Iranian New Year, which is celebrated on the first day of spring, commemorating the rebirth of nature. As the sun crosses the celestial equator, bringing night and day into balance, it seems a fitting time for fresh starts.

Apparently Nowruz has its roots in the religious traditions of Zoroastrianism, which dates back to the 6th century BC and later influenced Judaism, Islam and Christianity. According to Wikipedia, “the religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay.”

Preparations for Nowruz include a major house cleaning (Khouneh Tekouni – shaking of the home) and the purchase of new clothes and spring flowers, such as hyacinths and tulips. It seems spring cleaning is a universal concept.

In addition, Nowruz promotes time to honor family and friendships with short visits and gifts. Wikipedia tells me that “whatever a eastercandyperson does on Nowruz will affect the rest of the year. So, if a person is warm and kind to their relatives, friends and neighbors on Nowruz, then the new year will be a good one.” I grew up with similar versions of that concept: “Do unto others…” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.”

When my friend told me about this Persian high holiday, she showed me her family’s Haft-Sin – or seven S’s – table display. The array includes seven items, all starting with the letter “S” in Persian, symbolizing such virtues as age and patience, love, affluence and health.

I like to think of spring as the start of a new year, too. A new year of marriage and life, with a clean home, a colorful garden and thoughts of health, happiness, patience, love and good deeds, I wish the same for you, dear friends and readers.

Oh, and I give myself – and you – permission to dip into the jelly beans a bit early. I’m already on my third bag.

Linda Williams Rorem, 24 March 2014
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Dog Days of Summer

I love summer.

Summer feels warm, tastes like watermelon, smells of sunscreen lotion and sounds like splashing water. The days are longer, the “to do list” is shorter. People smile more. The pace just seems to be slower and easier. In summer I read the newspaper less and trashy novels more. Unplugging from everyday news allows me to think that everything is going much better in the world. It probably isn’t, but at least I don’t know about it. Ignorance is bliss.

Most of us thrive on structure and routine, however, summer allows us to let go a little and feed our “inner child” an extra scoop of ice cream. As Fall approaches, the air turns crisper and the atmosphere shifts. Like squirrels stashing nuts, people seem to have their head down more and the pace quickens. Just like a great vacation, though, I want to hang on to my summer euphoria a little longer in the dog days of summer.

Before September closes in I plan to:IMAG1257

  1. Eat ice cream
  2. Take a favorite hike
  3. Visit a beach and track sand through the house
  4. Ride my bike
  5. Mix and drink Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley
  6. Spend a lazy Sunday wandering through my local farmer’s market
  7. Eat a dinner of hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob and watermelon
  8. Make s’mores
  9. Go to a baseball game
  10. Take a short road trip

The simple pleasures are truly the best. If I work my way through my list one more time, I can move on to back-to-school mode with a little less remorse. Then when the days are darker and shorter, I can revisit my “summer state of mind.”

Here is the recipe for the Ginger Beer drink, which can be made alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Either one tastes great!

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley
1/2 lemon squeezed
lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
mint leaves
3 slices fresh ginger
Muddle first 4 ingredients
Fill glass with ice
Pour ginger beer to top and enjoy

Dear readers, what would you like to do one more time before summer slips away?

Carol Lewis Gullstad August 12, 2013


Gartending and Happy Hour

I do not have a green thumb. In fact, my thumb is more like the grim reaper of plants.my garden

As a young newlywed living in Minneapolis I decided to surprise my husband one spring evening. I knew he would be working late so I took advantage of the time and weeded the flower garden knowing it was a chore he could skip on the weekend. He had carefully cultivated the newly planted flowers from seedlings and they had recently been transplanted to beautify our front porch.

After gardening, I sat on the stoop quite pleased with my good deed. When my husband approached the front yard he indeed looked astonished. I asked him if he liked what I had done. He hesitatingly replied, “Hmm, I like your idea.” I was a little puzzled by the underwhelming response so I asked for clarification.  He said, “What did you think you were taking out?”

“Weeds of course,” I replied.

“Those weren’t weeds.”

As the pit in my stomach grew I weakly replied,”Uh, what were they?”

“They were my flowers!”

We agreed from that point forward that it was best for me to take a more limited role in the garden. Decades later, my only responsibility is to water one palm tree. It’s safer for the plants and better for our marriage.

No one will ever mistake me for a botanist but I appreciate the clever souls who can cultivate a garden and identify a plant from 10 yards away. I am particularly impressed by creative uses for garden bounty.

This weekend I attended a seminar, Garden to Glass, taught by Seattle gardener and creative cocktail crafter, Beth Evans-Ramos. Attendees were tutored in the art of “gartending,” a fun combination of organic gardening and bartending. We oohed and aahed at the beautiful creations of infusions, non-alcoholic beverages, bitters and syrups.infused in a row

Evans-Ramos delights in tinkering and encouraged her students to do the same.  A “grandma on the go,” Mama Beth happily recounted her serendipitous route to cocktail crafting. She talked about her eclectic thrift store collection of glasses and the joy of discovering hidden talent amongst the master bartenders of Seattle.

Beth goes by the moniker, “Mama Beth knows her cocktails,” and that is no hyperbole.

Check out her website to see for yourself: mamaknowshercocktails.

I haven’t felt this inspired to dig in the dirt since my epic weeding episode of nearly 25 years ago. I came home from the seminar and headed straight to our garden. My husband looked a little nervous but was relieved to see me merely picking mint and raspberries to use for an “infusion.” However, seedlings be warned. I may have discovered a new hobby and a new happy hour – time in the garden.

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Ginger Beer Lemon Mint Medley

Carol Lewis Gullstad July 15, 2013


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