Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mrs. Mary's Legacy: The Front Porch

There's an aspiring young writer in Greene County.   Actually, she's at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi, finishing up her second year.  Two years ago she came in (cause that's how youngsters do that are familiar with the way things work around here) and joined me for a glass of sweet tea, handing me her high school senior creative writing paper.  This post is it, unedited, but for the spelling of the dog's name correctly.  I bawled.  Her dad says I've mentored her;  it'd have to be unknowingly.  The gurl has always been near and dear to my heart and I didn't know, until reading her paper that she was of the same mind.  With her permission, I'm proud to introduce the writing talent of Miss Sarah Elizabeth Storment.

Mrs. Mary says "heyy girl-fren" when I walk into the kitchen. Her back stays towards me, so I know she's making another cake. "Going to the porch?" She's such a bad hinter. "Mmhm," I say, "If you've got some tea." I pretend to sulk, but I love the porch. I lean into John Robert's doorway headed out, but he's in the shop, so I turn the rusty doorknob, kick the door, and trip over a plant on my way out.

Mrs. Mary works for Wade the Florist sometimes, and it's apparent, because hanging ferns clog the porch's fringe. I love them in the summertime - they cool the porch for me. I can smell the road from there: in the summer, the sprinkler brings a smell of heavy heat up from the concrete, and blows it in my face, along with sweet wisteria and stale smoke. I can hear the radio inside the house playing Rod Stewart. I set my tea glass on the painted table and stretch out on the swing.

Some afternoons JRob comes outside with me, and the ice clinks in our glasses and makes me feel at home. Mr. Mike comes out while I'm writing, sometimes. We both like our privacy, so he sits on the steps and grumbles and smokes to himself, and mumbles and smokes. Even Mike makes me feel comfortable because he complacently fills his role of lazy-ass husband. His cigarettes smell good to me.

The porch swing is my seat, but Beaudeux the dog is very ornery, so he loves to crowd me out. He pouts when I push him down, so I dig my bare toes into my curly foot prop, and pinch him when he shoves me. It seems like someone is always on the porch - but that's a good thing. People help hide the house's imperfections. If Andy's there playing his guitar, no one notices the paint flecks on the big windows, or the fading blue floor paint, or the grime on the coffee table.

There is always cake batter, beers, and neighbors; especially when Mrs. Mary comes out with her sunshine smile and long gray hair. She is so like me - or I'm like her: I can't figure out which one. Sometimes I ask "Aren't you baking for a big party?" And she goes inside and plays the piano beautifully, because I'm a bad hinter, too. JRob is working on his monster potato gun, so there are occasional explosions from around the big house, and sometimes he yells "SHIT!" really loud.

I love the porch. Any warmth of friendship that I lack is always regained there, because Mrs. Mary and the citronella candles have enough to spare. If I was a stranger walking by, I'd stop and stare, just because the big old house breathes its warmth onto Mrs. Mary's porch.

It's front porch weather, y'all grab a neighbor and enjoy!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Palm Tree for Deep South (or anywhere) Events

Yes.  You, too, can make this palm tree...

Okay.  So.  When I began blogging last year the one thing I said to myself was "Self, you've GOT to post something, one thing, every single week or folks are going to lose interest in your little corner of the world (or mind) like you've lost interest in a handful of others."  Self listened and kept it up for a while but, meh, sometimes life gets in the way of the most noble of intentions.  Not that writing a single post a week is a noble intention, but it was an earnest one.

Mama's recovery from the mini-AVR last month is ongoing;  she's doing well -- well enough to be really gripy about the trip to Hattiesburg twice a week for cardio rehab;

well enough to purchase half of the plants from the "reduced for quick sale" section in the garden center at Lowe's.

I've been preoccupied with spoiling tending to her every need:  cooking, cleaning, laundrying (is that a word?), getting flowerbeds cleaned out, plants potted up, Rooster and Hennies rescued from buffalo gnats, dogs bathed,  car washed, bills paid, etc.    You name it, I've done it for her in the last four months.  I've also kept my own household going, a bit more challenging by the return of Youngest Fellow home for a few weeks.  To say I'm feeling stretched a little thin (don't I wish, I'd love to be thin) is an understatement.

Today, however, I had a little journey into the deep woods of Greene County to the community of Neely to build a centerpiece:  not just any centerpiece, but a palm tree centerpiece.  I carried the camera with me because I thought of y'all.  This is something  readily doable with supplies easily found at WalMart.  That's where mine came from.   It helps to have a florist friend with beyond-fresh jade to use as palm fronds.
The dried ends have been trimmed.
 I have holly leaf ferns growing by the driveway that make a nice long frond as well.  And asparagus fern in a big pot by the back porch steps.

The base of the palm tree is a gallon can that's had several pounds of plaster of paris poured into it.  A half inch dowel rod was wrapped once in plastic wrap and taped and put into the wet plaster.  After the plaster was all set, it took a little doing to twist/wring/manhandle the dowel out of it but the two pieces together became the weighted base of the tree.

When I first made this tree, I thought it was the best idea ever to get the huge blocks of styrofoam and whittle it to size and shape.  Wrong.  Get the sheets of styrofoam, use another gallon can to punch out circles, much like a biscuit cutter only denser/messier/with much static.  Once the big circles are cut, place the plaster of paris weighted can with the dowel rod in place on something low.  You'll take one of the foam circles, place it on top of the dowel rod, and whack it with a hammer or shoe or rolling pin.  Voila!  Punches right through!  Push that disc down and do the rest of them the same way, leaving three or four inches space at the top of the dowel rod.

I've three of the bases and the styrofoam to cover them.  They've been used almost a dozen times and are probably another dozen uses away from remaking the discs.

A florist cage and oasis are the only other pieces necessary to construct one.  I wouldn't attempt making a tree without the cage;  the oasis has to be soaked, and all the greenery going into it will make it shatter.

I cut my cage in half and bind it with zip ties after putting a half block 
of wet oasis in it.  The missing plastic in this end is intentional - 
so it will easily fit onto the dowel rod.

Meh.  I don't know what they're called but they can be found at WalMart back in the silk flowers section.  They look like long staples and are very handy for holding the banana leaves in place.

That's a lot of words going on already, so I'm just going to show you how it goes together, 'kay???

Don't laugh.  It's functional, okay?
 That's the gallon can with the plaster of paris and hole in the middle.
Sometimes, I put the smaller blocks of foam at the base
so I can put more greenery and stems of grapes around the base of the tree.

 Everything is all laid out and ready to put together.

 These little pieces of tape are for putting on the cut ends 
of the banana leaves, keeping them from wilting.

 My friend calls this Davey tape.  I've pinned it into place -
And pin banana leaves around the styrofoam, making a single round 
of Davey tape.  Another layer of leaves will go on, just like these, higher
up the trunk of the tree, covering this tape and pins.
 That's two layers of banana leaves, pinned and taped into place.
Three more leaves are wrapped around the top and pinned in place
with those funky florist staple thingies.
 The soaked oasis in the cage gets pushed onto the top of the dowel rods.
 Little sprigs of the fern are snipped and pushed into the oasis to
hide the mechanics of the tree.  Jade greenery is pushed into it afterwards
all the way around, making the palm fronds.
 Spray with leaf shine to make it pretty (and shiny).

Fruit can be put on picks and pushed onto the trunk of the tree for a fruit centerpiece.

I've also put pickles and olives and cheese on picks and pushed them into the trunk of the tree.

The client today only wanted the tree, the fruit and dips for her reception going on the table.  The grass skirting, by the way, is made of eight grass skirts from  Dollar Tree found on the toy wall, tied together and attached to the plastic table cloth (that was taped firmly UNDER the table) by double-sided tape.

I hear of lots of luaus and tropical themed events going on all the time.  Have one for yourself and a couple of dozen friends and make a palm tree for the centerpiece.  People are going to love it!

Thank you again, for your continuing thoughts and prayers for Mama and myself as her recovery continues.  I'm not that strong of a person, I've no doubt it's all the well-wishes on our behalf keeping me sane and her recovering.  Y'all let me know when you're doing to be in the Deep South of Mississippi and I'll have you over for a cup of coffee or a glass of sweet tea on the front porch.  Hugs and kisses, everybody!


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Mayree's Repurposed Story: Mama's Stuff.....

Life is crazier than crazy right now with Mama's recovery, keeping up two households, a few cakes, a little catering, and the production of Havard Lane Totes to carry to the different arts and crafts festivals in the Deep South.   Several local folks made the comment yesterday that Mama was always good at 'saving' stuff and, as exasperating as it is to manipulate through the piles of it at times, it's because of her saving stuff that Havard Lane Totes are around and doing so well.  This Mama's Stuff story is being repurposed recycled reposted with that in mind...


For Mother's Day and Mama - because all her good stuff (of which I'm made) is precious to her, even though I give her a hard time about it...

There must be something about growing up in the Depression as one child of thirteen that makes a person a packrat for the rest of her life.  Mama is the ultimate packrat. She calls it her stuff -- yeah, because she can't stuff her house any fuller of it.  I went out to help Mama clean in the kindergarten the other day.  It's her building but she had graciously loaned it to me to open a day care in.  I had cleaned it out and it was ever the cutest little day care in Greene county (actually, the ONLY one for a while).

 What I cleaned out was Mama's stuff:  fabric softener bottles, wipie boxes, 15 year old magazines never read, paper clippings, bits of string, pencil stubs.  We boxed, bagged, and hauled her stuff to the old crib that was used to store the winter feed corn in and left it there for several years.   At one point some of the brothers came home and cleaned the crib out, burning Mama's stuff.  She was incensed with them but I got the scathing tongue lashing for putting her stuff in harm's way to begin with.

The day care is closed, has been for several years.  The family has reverted to calling it the kindergarten and it is again full of Mama's stuff.  Every ribbon from floral arrangements, styrofoam meat trays, aluminum pie plates, margarine and CoolWhip tubs, egg cartons, strawberry baskets, material scraps for that quilt she's going to piece together, more magazines, Mrs. Claudia's Mississippi Press Registers, at least three years old, and Tupperware.

Everything has a purpose and at least one use. The floral ribbons are needed in case she puts flowers in the church and the arrangement needs a touch of color. The meat trays and pie plates are to set her flowers in when cold weather comes and forces them to be brought inside, never can have too much of those. Margarine and CoolWhip tubs go to Naomi's;  she's forever cooking and sending food and those won't have to be returned. The hens are laying again and she needs the egg cartons, maybe not a hundred, but they'll be handy if she does.  The strawberry baskets can magically be transformed into by a child into an Easter basket with just a chenille wire and plastic green grass.

One day, really, she will piece that quilt together but settling on a pattern has been a bit difficult.   And the magazines and newspapers need to be gone through in case there's any good recipes in them. Mama doesn't like to miss out on good recipes.  Never mind that there are adequate numbers of terra cotta and plastic trays for the plants to sit in. Those sweat and may mildew the floor.  She doesn't like her Tupperware getting away from her, the grown grandchildren still may need it even though they've all set up their own houses.

I see her blood pressure visibly rising every time I discuss the mayonnaise jar collection and its' disposal.   You'll notice I said I discuss it, the conversation is decidedly one-sided.   Empty prescription drug bottles are not even a conversation topic;  a necessary entity of Mama's stuff, their existence qualified by their small size and ability to be crammed into minute drawer spaces, purse pockets, and corners of boxes.

You would have to see all her stuff to believe the magnanimity of it. Truth be told, Mama likes her stuff.  She thrives on attaining it and is ever planning how to get more. Maybe growing up during and after the Depression her family wasn't able to have stacks, bags, and boxes of stuff everywhere and Mama's making up for lost possessions. Maybe it's comforting to her.   Maybe I'm way off base and Mama has one of those  stuck behind the piano.

She could, you know.  That's where all the really good stuff is.