Monday, January 10, 2011

Pumpkin Muffins and a Camellia Show


A vegan pumpkin muffin posing with climbing asters, chokecherries, and sumac berries

On Saturday I was so happy just because I was free. For one precious day I didn’t have to go to work and I could do whatever I wanted. I added a sweetshrub (Calycanthus floridus) and three Elliott’s blueberries (Vaccinium elliottii) to our big bed around the pond, and Rob limbed up a lot of trees so our vegetable garden will get more sun. As I planted I dreamed about having a pond-warming party in April, with bouquets of wild azaleas on the picnic table and everybody dressed up in their prettiest, lightest spring dresses. (I pictured Jake, my nephew, in a little seersucker suit.)

Later we added a huge new section to our big bed behind the vegetable garden, mulching it with a layer of newspapers and piling wood chips on top of that. We transplanted our little Cara Cara orange to this new part of the bed. The Cara Cara orange used to be near the Little House (that’s what we call our old detached kitchen), but we were worried it would shade out our vegetable crops if we left it there. So we moved it, and hopefully we didn’t kill it (I felt really sorry for it as we were digging it up).

It was just a happy Saturday, spent planting and raking and mulching and weeding. I’d go inside periodically to get a drink of water and encourage the cats in their wrestling matches.

The goldfinches are back--so Rob put up the thistle feeders again and they were immediately swamped with little golden eaters. Rob and I stood at the window in the sun room admiring them.

"I can't believe how cute they are; they're so well groomed!" I said. "Look at how neatly their feathers lie. And how perfectly the stripes on their tails line up!"

After dark, Rob and I baked things, which is a very cozy way to spend a cold and blustery night. I made perfect vegan pumpkin muffins using this recipe, and Rob made vegan banana-oatmeal cookies based on a recipe in the venerable Betty Crocker Cooky Book. I was drinking hot tea as we baked and wearing my fake-fur slippers. Of course there were myriad cats involved, trying to sneak tastes of soy yogurt. Carl was sitting on the table looking like a little Chinese lion with his short face, strong little body, and huge eyes. He was “yelling” at me. He wanted me to serve him a glass of water on the counter (one of his new entitlements).

On Sunday Bun, Sophie, Kris, and I went to the Camellia Society’s annual camellia show with Dad; it’s held every year at the Conner Complex in Tallahassee. I wasn’t expecting to see Sophie at the show. But yes, there she was in that drab auditorium, sporting the brightest red lipstick.

Apparently she had asked Kris, “Should I wear makeup or go with a natural look?”

I believe Kris advised a natural look, but Sophie has her own ideas.

Bun and I kept complimenting her on her lipstick. “Well, let me just say I love the ruby lips,” I said. “I noticed them from all the way across the room.”

“Yowza,” Bun said.

“Stop talking about my lipstick!” Sophie cried.

She was so cute, in her little babyish T-shirt and her screen-siren lipstick. She was being really good. She was actually really interested in looking at all the camellias.

Let me tell you a little bit about the camellia show. In the auditorium there are tables and tables full of little water-filled cups, each containing a single camellia flower. The best flowers win ribbons; the show is a competition. Bun and I were going from table to table admiring the flowers and taking notes on the cultivars we liked so we can buy them for our gardens.

Here is my list:

Cile Mitchell
Angel Kloman
Dream Boat
Mr. Sam
Buttons and Bows
Satsuma Kurenai

Sophie was walking with us.

“I really like the peony form,” I commented to Bun.

“Panty form?” Sophie said.

“Peony,” I said.

“Oh,” Sophie said. “It sounded like you said ‘panty.’”

“Well, I didn’t,” I said.

Sophie’s favorite camellia flowers were the very, very tiny miniature ones. Like Sweet Jane.

“Don’t you like Sweet Jane?” Sophie asked.

“Oh, yes,” I said. “It’s very cute.”

“Then why don’t you write it down?”

“That’s a good idea. I think I will.”

I couldn’t believe how good she was being; she was so engaged in looking at the camellias and choosing her favorites. She was by far the youngest person at the show. At age 34, Bunny was the second youngest. Most of the visitors to the camellia show seemed to be well over 90.

It was a really cold windy brutal day. The weather was very grim.

“Ah, the perfect day for a camellia show,” Kris said, rolling her eyes. Kris hates the annual camellia show. And she hates winter in general.

I got to see Jake for just a minute later in the day. I went by Kris's house and Jake was all upset because he thought he’d been “ripped off”; Phil (his father) had bought him a 99-cent access card to some sort of kids’ website and then Sophie had broken it to him that the website was actually free. So Jake was fretting and sort of crying. Apparently he felt like a chump.

Kris was trying to cheer him up: “Daddy bought it. It’s on Daddy, man. It’s not on you.”

And that did seem to make Jake feel a little better.

“Hi, Jake,” I said. But he barely looked at me. He was so busy on the computer.

“Gosh,” I said. “Jake’s acting like we’re not even friends.”

“Well, we’re not friends,” he said matter-of-factly, perhaps impatiently. “You’re my aunt, and I’m your nephew.”

Later Kris said to me, “I’m actually surprised he knew what his relation to you was. I thought he might have been like, ‘Now how do I know her again?’”

So true. That would be so Jake.


Vegan banana-oatmeal-raisin cookies with a sprig of waxmyrtle


Bunny has a great collection of camellias (this is one of them). Next year I really want her to enter some blooms in the show!


Sophie at the camellia show in her fetching red lipstick


Hey, check out my crazy dress. Photo by Kris Kimel Photography


I love being an aunt. Photo by Kris Kimel Photography


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