Six on Saturday ~ Alfresco Tables

My husband and I enjoy alfresco suppers on our courtyard when the weather is pleasant, usually in spring and early summer, and again in late summer and early fall. Al fresco is Italian for “in fresh air” and can encompass picnics at the beach or under the trees in the woods or a grapevine like this one — or simply under a patio umbrella.

The Kaleidoscope Blog

Alfresco lunches of my childhood were in our screened summerhouse under massive oak trees on our place. My sister and I filled yellow plates with sandwiches and/or salads and carried them, along with glasses of iced tea, then trekked through the gardens to get there. Hubby and I don’t own a summerhouse, but we do have a lovely courtyard just outside our back door. Although we’re empty nesters now, I still enjoy laying the table “properly” by covering the glass top with a summery cloth, such as wide blue-and-white stripes and woven blue mats, Blue Willow dishes and wine glasses.

Here are a few favorite ideas from Carolyne Roehm’s A Passion for Blue & White.

I prefer to use place mats in a cobalt blue to set off the plates. Mine happen to be woven straw from Pier One Imports. They contrast nicely against the patterned cloth.

Here is a setting on polished glass table surface. The designer has borrowed a porcelain planter to use for the centerpiece. I’ve been doing that for years! I have several pieces of blue and white porcelain that I’ve collected from The Enchanted Home.

But I am careful not to overdo with too many or too tall arrangements.

Although I’m often tempted to play with tall florals made even taller with bent twigs snapped from a dogwood tree, a low center mound works best. Here we see a small collection gathered in the center for a charming effect.

Carolyn Roehm utilizes a lot of stripes in her blue and white designs. It was this round table setting, pictured above in an old House Beautiful magazine, that first inspired me to buy the Sunbrella fabric from a local store and make my own tablecloth and seat covers.

Sometimes views borrowed from the gardens, whether ours or the next-door neighbor’s, are all that’s needed for a dramatic alfresco effect. Whatever else is added down the center of the table serve as accents.

Carolyne Roehm’s A Passion for Blue & White was published in 2008 by Broadway Books, an imprint of the Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Pages from My Journal

Reading Notes: Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy by Congressman Jamie Raskin (2022)

For me, these morning hours on my courtyard, surrounded by summer things — ferns, geraniums, lavender, lemon verbena — are deeply healing. I bring out iced coffee and my prayer book, along with whatever current book I am reading. “For it is in rest and quietness” that we find healing (Isaiah 30:15 paraphrased).

On that terrible day of infamy on Wednesday, January 6 of 2021, I suffered a cerebral incident, not quite a stroke, although I thought it was when I crashed to the floor and my legs wouldn’t cooperate. I fell from deep shock, almost insurmountable, that has taken me over a year to recover from, and then not entirely. Even now, that old anxiety/panic disorder has resurfaced, along with depression. The bad dreams have subsided for the most part. My mobile reflexes continue to improve but only if I work at it. Mostly I’m too tired. I can get about in public by using an excellent little walker that folds flat when not in use; balance is the main issue, especially on uneven ground in my garden.

And now, this treatise on our collective trauma by Jamie Raskin is out a month or so ago. I am reading it carefully, taking notes, to try to understand exactly what happened that day when our beloved country crashed into anarchy, albeit temporary.

“I have learned,” Raskin writes, “that trauma can steal everything from you that is most precious and rip joy right out of your life. But, paradoxically, it can also make you stronger and wider and connect you more deeply to other people than you ever imagined by enabling you to touch their misfortunes and integrate their losses and pain with your own. If a person can grow through unthinkable trauma and loss, perhaps a nation may, too.” [Here I failed to cite the page. Sorry.]

When everything looks hopeless, you are the hope. ~ Marcus Raskin

Usually, when I am feeling hopeless, I write, but now I cannot find anything in the pages of my journal from last year. Maybe I only thought I wrote down what happened to me. I did try to explain to my husband right after IT happened, but my speech became so garbled he couldn’t understand me. I couldn’t even understand myself. Why didn’t he recognize what was happening and call 911? Instead, he remained fixated on the television screen as events in D.C. raged on.

According to the late Madeleine Albright, fascism (with a little ‘f’) is not a fixed ideological system but rather a strategy for taking and holding power. That’s what T. tried to accomplish on January 6. It’s his long-running plan to maintain power. Abraham Lincoln’s famous 1838 Lyseum speech in Springfield, Illinois, stated that “if division and destruction ever came to America, it wouldn’t come from abroad [as we always feared] but from within; . . . [T]he uncontrolled use of mobs for political ends would lead to tyranny and deception over the people of America” (quoted in Raskin, 309).

That’s what happened on January 6. That’s the sort of thing we associate with the so-called Banana Republics and, in an earlier time, in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy and Catilina’s Roman Republic. Catilina was a Roman Patrician rival of Cicero who conspired again Rome and tried to overthrow the Republic; he was charged with abuse of power while serving as governor (c. 65 and 63 B.C.E.)

I dare say that T is the modern M and C out to ruin America, the country my patriot ancestors founded in the 1600s and nurtured over the centuries. I recall that, on that horrid day, I inwardly and tearfully apologized to them for the way their descendant compatriots desecrated and ruined their legacy. Is this what I am handling down to my grandchildren and their progeny? I pray not. Lord, have mercy.

“The ambitious tyrant must always be feared.” ~ Machiavelli, The Prince

“Fear was the controlling principle in the unhinged GOP of 2021, and no one was feared more than Donald Trump, because of his giant reach in the country and his famously explosive and vindictive temper” (Raskin, 324).

For me, personally, I need to move from the trauma to the role T played in order to begin to understand exactly what happened that day; otherwise, I cannot get beyond the effect of the continuing trauma on my body — yea, my body, not just my mind — when I crashed to the floor from a paralyzing cerebral incident.

“Human beings do not move straight from trauma to closure without first understanding how and why all their basic assumptions about the world were violently wrenched away . . . ” (Raskin, 325).

January 6 was the culmination of a series of T-inspired events of violence and chaos, a pattern, if you will, almost a practice run (cf. Charlottesville and Michigan et al.), via a series of MAGA rallies to condition folks to street violence, a sort of dress rehearsal, according to Raskin.

Why didn’t anyone see that pattern before? Why didn’t I? After all, I’m a student of history. And, not along ago, I read Madeleine Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning, since passed along to my son and his wife. Well, I am seeing it now as it continues to unfold, not behind the scenes, but right before our eyes.

Again, I pray ~ Lord, have mercy.

“My Sister’s Birthday”

a poem by my sister, Sarah Alice Dame Parmarter (2016)

Lady in the Garden ~ by Abbott Fuller Graves

Thoughts, memories, the sights,

the sounds, the smells of childhood,

these run through my mind every day.

I remember the girlish laughter,

the “conspiracies,” the rides in the baby buggy,

and, later, the wheelbarrow.

I remember Sundays, dressed up to go to church.

I remember the summers spent in the summer house,

more laughter, Mother coming out to tell us to quiet down,

we sounded like “hooligans.”

I remember your junior high school graduation,

the dress you wore (later re-made for me) pale blue

organdy, embossed with white roses,

the song your classmate sang,

“You Will Never Walk Alone.”

I remember when you left home,

the closing of a suitcase,

the end of an era.

I remember our visits,

how we sat up all night laughing and talking.

And, as we grew older, how time and distance

separated us.

But the thread, the fabric of memory, is strong.

It holds you close to me,

Always, always.

Six on Saturday / from my journal

I treasure my early mornings on the courtyard, in the shady area behind the yew hedge where I enjoy iced coffee with my morning prayers. From here, I look out over the herb garden and the perennial beds beyond. Earlier garden designers and landscapers referred to these large beds as “pleasure gardens” as opposed to a working garden– the kitchen garden of culinary herbs and vegetables. I used to cultivate a kitchen garden during our early years here, something like this French potager design . . .

. . . then I decided one year to add four small Old Roses, each to center a quadrant. Those roses grew and grew, up to five feet, and all but took over. They left just enough space for a few herbs, the ones I use most often in the kitchen. Today, with the addition of a Luytens-style bench arbor, my herb garden is more for pleasure. I do keep sage and thyme, chives and parsley for snipping. This combination is workable for an 80-year-old woman.

This summer I am indulging my fancy for the aromatics–lavender, lemon verbena, Moroccan mint, sweet woodruff–all in planters grouped on the courtyard, within easy reach, all with a useful purpose.

English Lavender

Of what use is lavender than to freshen the air? It adds a lovely note to summer drinks, embedded in ice cubes, or stirred in pound cake batter or shortbread cookie dough as Victorian tea pleasures. And the purple blossoms lend fragrant grace notes to a courtyard table. Honey bees visit early in the day to kiss each blossom.

Lemon Verbena

In Gone With the Wind, Lemon Verbena was the signature fragrance of Scarlett O’Hara’s mother, Ellen. I can see, or rather smell, why when I crush a leaf between thumb and fingers to produce a whiff of strong lemony sweetness. There ought to be a manufactured air freshener made of verbena, the star of the lemon scented plant world. Maybe there is. There is, however, a lemon verbena herbal tea, rather expensive but probably well worth the taste test.

Box of Lemon Verbena Tea Bags

For each tall glass of freshly made lemonade, I like to snip a stem to double the sensual pleasure with each sip on a summer afternoon. It’s certainly stronger than lemon balm, a gentler herb I grow in the garden.

Moroccan Mint

There is no mistaking the strength of Moroccan Mint in iced tea, or hot, for that matter. I’m enjoying a tall glass right now as I write. To make the drink Moroccan Tea, Moroccan Mint is combined with green tea and sugar. This beverage is popular in the Arabian nations and often takes on a ceremonial purpose, especially when the tea is made for guests by the man of the house.

In mid-to-late summer Moroccan mint produces lilac-colored whorls of blooms on spikes that attract bees and butterflies.

Sweet Woodruff

Does sweet woodruff have a purpose beyond looking pretty, nestled next to mint and lemon verbena in a planter? Its spreading mat of tiny star-shaped leaves lend a delicate counterpoint to the mint’s sturdy tooth-edged leaves. Tiny white blossoms appear in small clusters. In woodland gardens it spreads by creeping roots as a perennial groundcover, but I’m afraid the climate here is too dry to keep woodruff going. The fragrant dried leaves smell like vanilla and is used to flavor teas, fruiting drinks, sachets, and potpourris.

There are today’s Six on Saturday. What are your favorite aromatics in your garden?

Wordless Wednesday

Cool and damp summer day after gentle all-night rains. We had been promised a thunderstorm which failed to materialize after all. Perhaps later? I don’t want to miss out on the show.

Time for another “Wordless Wednesday” post, except this time I have things to say after a few weeks of wordlessness on WordPress, only a rare image now and then just to stay in the loop. We have been immersed in the televised select committee hearings of the ongoing investigation into the 2020 insurrection on January 6, the incident that shocked a nation’s complacency and triggered, in me, a mild stroke when I crashed to the floor. Only by the grace of God did we all survive, albeit divided still. Since then, we’ve celebrated twice the Fourth of July with some degree of pomp and circumstance.

Our Fourth was a sunny, not-too-hot day, beginning on Sunday with a glorious worship service live-streamed from St. Luke Cathedral in Orlando, followed by our usual afternoon of perusing the Sunday papers, and culminating in an alfresco supper of barbecued baby back ribs — Smithfield, no less — and cherry pie. Didn’t George Washington, our national hero, have something to do with a cherry tree?

The actual day this year fell on Monday. I did the laundry.

Now that my Antique Roses have completed their astounding late-spring show, I am “allowing” rose hips to form by declining to deadhead the faded blooms. Sometimes laziness pays off. One rose, however, the “Red Rose of Lancaster,” continues to surprise us with one fresh bloom each day. Maybe it’s the same one?

Yesterday, I discovered a second bloom below the first. This is the variety of antique rose that often produces a repeat bloom around September, although not as abundantly as in June. As I’ve written previously, The Red Rose of Lancaster was the heraldic badge adopted by the royal House of Lancaster in the 14th century. 

The House of York adopted the White Rose, not included in my garden. I believe it has been included in George Washington’s Upper Garden at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

So, what’s with the hips? They begin to form after pollination in spring and ripen in late summer through fall. Hips are needed to propagate new roses, according to Wikipedia. . . .

“Roses are propagated from rose hips by removing the achenes that contain the seeds from the hypanthium (the outer coating) and sowing just beneath the surface of the soil. The seeds can take many months to germinate. Most species require chilling (stratification), with some such as Rosa canina only germinating after two winter chill periods.”

Domestically, rose hips can be used to make herbal teas, often blended with hibiscus, and to make jams and jellies, perhaps on a rainy fall day.


%d bloggers like this: