Foodie Tuesday: Don’t Mess with Success

I do enjoy my meals. I like ‘meeting’ new treats to eat. I love the companionship of people, at table and around the virtual kitchen, who bring new savor to any food I get to eat.

And I will likely never tire of those particularly delicious favorites, comfort food and classics that are too good to fail. A cold seafood salad like the Louis (or Louie) need not be fiddled with in any way to thrill the palate. Lettuce, when it’s topped with the traditional olives, tomatoes and hard-boiled egg, is in need of nothing further than sweet shrimp or crab or both, and perhaps a squeeze of lemon juice, to be one of the most refreshing and filling and tasty luncheons imaginable.Photo: Crab & Shrimp Louie

I may tweak the old familiars to extremes from time to time, like a couple of diner cooks did with the nice variant versions of mac and cheese I’ve enjoyed a couple of times lately with Dungeness crab, one of them adorned with bacon, leeks and basil (and served with a nice crispy tuile of parmesan on top), or I may prefer to keep them magnificently purist-friendly and old-fashioned to the nth degree.Photo: Dungeness Mac

The beloved BLT is another of those that can take on any number of changes and added ingredients and offbeat preparations with panache, but is so gloriously perfect in its simple original form that when the tomato is absolute perfection in its ripe fruity brightness, the lettuce as crisp and clean as a green leaf newly sprouted, the bacon crisp, smoky and salty and piled almost too high for a monster’s jaws, and the mayonnaise spread just-so on the delicately crunchy toast, there can be no need for any other version. Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato are friendly with ever so many good add-ons, from avocado to mint or cilantro, cheese, boiled egg slices to grilled peppers (sweet or hot or both), and—avert your eyes, tender purist souls—grilled pineapple. But sometimes, when the stars and the aforementioned traditional ingredients of B, L, and T are in perfect form and proportion, it’s de trop beyond the crassest imaginings to monkey with proven perfection.Photo: BLT Perfection in Ponder

Either way, I’m kind of hungry right now, even though the household cooks served us fantastic grilled cheese followed by a fine berry pie a while ago. Did I mention classics? Delicious magnificence? Guess it’s time to stop dreaming and head for the kitchen again.

Just Press this Button and Be Amazed!

I’ve told you that I am enamored of digital photography. How could a person who loves taking pictures—but is too confused by the functions and uses of a ‘real’ camera, and far too lazy to do anything like the intensive study required to become skilled with said functions and uses, let alone learn how to process photos afterward—how could I not love digital cameras and photo processing?

One of the bonuses of the ability to revise and improve my photos digitally is the element of surprise that comes when I’ve taken very dark photos (at night or in poorly lit places), open up what looks like an entirely black image in one of my favorite editing programs, brighten it and change the contrast, and voila! there’s that thing I was looking at and had entirely forgotten by then. Sometimes the photo turns out to be something I had no idea I’d shot, too, but even those pictures can be interesting in their own ways.Photo: Gnats 1

Take this particular black rectangle from our recent time in Prague. I knew I’d taken photos on a couple of evenings when we were out and about with our compatriots, but couldn’t necessarily say exactly what the subject of them had been. A little tweaking brought the memory out of the dark.Photo: Element of Surprise 1

Gnats! There was a flurry of gnats flitting around a lamppost and making a tiny but lovely little display of sparkling fireworks, and when I took the photos I had no clue whether they would actually show anything at all, given the intensity of the surrounding darkness. But my hopes were rewarded, if not with a magnificent set of photos, at least with a welcome memory of that beautiful evening that even a clueless picture-taker like me could enjoy.Photo: Element of Surprise 2

Foodie Tuesday: I Feel Crabby and that’s Just Fine

I’m having those old crustacean cravings again. It’s a good thing I’ll get a chance to visit some coastal locales this summer to indulge. Will it be time for a cool, refreshing Crab Louis again? Crab mac and cheese? Crab cakes? Crab sushi*? Or the pristine classic of plain, freshly cooked crab with melted butter and a wedge of lemon?

All of the above, if I’m lucky.

Digital painting from a photo: Feeling Crabby

The more, the merrier, when it comes to such things. I love shrimp and lobster too, yes, but crab—particularly Dungeness crab—has my heart. Maybe I feel a little kinship with those crusty crustaceans, if only in name. I certainly have a nostalgic connection, remembering many a delicious crab feast from my younger days as a coastal kid.

Photo: Crab, Chillin'

Perhaps I’ll fix up something that can be eaten hot, cold or room temperature and can be made ahead and chilled and/or reheated, something like:

Crab Noodles

Combine cooked glass noodles or rice noodles, fresh Dungeness crab, chopped fresh sugar snap peas, a handful of finely shredded raw carrots, fine matchsticks of fresh ginger root, and cubes of grilled pineapple. Dress the blend with a mixture of Tamari, lime juice or rice vinegar (the latter unseasoned), honey, and either red pepper flakes or hot chili oil to taste. Sprinkle with some black or toasted white sesame seeds before serving.

PS—Turns out sushi won the race, but I’m not done with the search yet!

2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 17,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

It May Not Wash Away My Sins, But It’ll Give My Mistakes the Brush-Off

photoFollowing last week’s disastrous yet amusing piecrust adventures, I can affirm once again that despite my many failings, I have gotten better over the years at picking myself up, dusting myself off, and restarting my engine. Rebooting my attitude is far easier than trying to be perfect will ever be. So I’m resolved to work on refining my will, aiming less toward unachievable exactitude in my every act and more toward simply doing the very best I can and then getting on with things. Preferably, with spring in my step and a little more good humor about my shortcomings than before.

It won’t necessarily make me any more accomplished or spectacular or ingenious, but if it makes me more tolerable to others in my natural state, then it’ll be a gift not only to my own well-being but perhaps also to that of those around me. If my loss can’t be your gain, at least it shouldn’t be your loss, too! Self improvement, even that which is less evident than acquiring new and better skills and knowledge, can be more than strictly self-serving.

So I’ll keep scrubbing the pot I scorched, knowing that it’ll make me more vigilant next time and happy that it didn’t result in a ruined meal or the destruction of the house in a massive conflagration. I’ll compost those plants that I over- or under-watered and look to build up a stronger garden for the rest of the things I planted. I’ll remake that wool sweater that I’ve shrunk beyond my use and give it to a very tiny person, perhaps for his or her doll to wear. And I’ll sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labors, even if it’s only by giving me a good cackle at my ineptitude and foolish optimism. Shifting to a fresh attitude can be just as helpful and pleasing as putting on fresh underwear, and you’ll be glad that I resolve to work at doing both whenever and however often it’s helpful.

Foodie Tuesday: Con Mucho Gusto

So many meals, Latin-inflected or not, are best enjoyed with a nice cold glass or two of sangria. Particularly helpful is the knowledge that sangria has so many tasty potential variations that it can be made the perfect complement to nearly anything. Or substitute for it, if such dire need should arise. But I’ll concede that the many magnificent flavors of the Latin cultures are also, often, what make the sangria so wildly delicious.

In addition, the simplicity of combining the marvelous ingredients for either the food or drink portion of such a meal adds the appeal of quick preparation. While a number of recipes, including many for sangria, are improved by a little time spent melding their flavors together with heat or chilling, the actual labor time might not be terribly lengthy nor the effort especially challenging. Just gather the supplies, put them together in a dish or bowl, and wait for them to come to full fruition. Fruit being, of course, a hallmark of a refreshing batch of sangria.

The dish of the day is so easy it can be assembled and heated in minutes. Even the slowest portion of the prep, the cooking of quinoa, can be accomplished with little trouble, particularly if like me you have a rice cooker. I use a brand of quinoa that requires no rinsing or soaking, and it works easily to prepare it in my rice cooker by combining cooking liquid (usually my ubiquitous homemade broth) with the grain in a 2:1 ratio. I do this in larger batches, refrigerating all but the day’s portion for later meals.photoNestled Eggs [one hearty serving]

In a microwave-proof bowl, put a cup of cooked quinoa and make a hollow in the center of the grain. Break two eggs into the nest and puncture the yolks a little; cover and heat the dish on High for two minutes. [A nice optional variation: stir eggs with steamed fresh spinach leaves that have had the liquid pressed out of them.] Remove the bowl from the oven and top the eggs with a handful of cheese (cotija, queso blanco or sharp cheddar, for example), re-cover, and continue to cook on High for another minute or two, until the eggs are lightly set. Spoon some nice chipotle salsa [see my semi-handmade chipotle salsa hack here] on top, add a tablespoon of cilantro-tequila pesto [just a bunch of fresh cilantro finely pureed with tequila] and some crunchy salt, and serve with a glass of cold sangria.photoCherry-Peach Sangria

Combine a Jeroboam [four bottles] of Cabernet-Merlot blend wine with a magnum [two bottles] of Riesling, one 32 oz bottle of Just Black Cherry juice, 2 cups of dark pure maple syrup, one orange, thinly sliced (including peel), and one 23.5 oz jar of sliced peaches in juice; stir gently to blend, chill, and serve.

The Mythology of Inspiration

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Whatever your vehicle, Ladies and Gentlemen, start your engines!

In another lifetime I was a teacher. Not a fabulous one, mind you, but one who took what I did seriously and did my best to give my students, if not the actual practice that would make them more productive and skillful and happy in their making of art, at least the idea of what might be possible for them and perhaps the instigation of the will to develop over the longer term. Like every other teacher in history, I knew that most of the burden of improvement fell on my students and had surprisingly little to do with what I could or couldn’t, would or wouldn’t, should or shouldn’t give them. And like every other teacher, I heard from my students every excuse in the book about why they would inevitably fail to accomplish any of this, how they were powerless against the forces that conspired to keep them from making the assigned efforts or finishing their work. Having used most of the excuses myself, I had plenty of fuel to argue my case after spending the intervening years (or minutes) rethinking it all as I moved from student status to teacher. And I knew too that I would have to keep re-learning it all as long as I lived, since every teacher is only a different breed of student and Life is the biggest, craziest, toughest and most creatively optimal classroom of all.

So I made up a little page of possible excuses and a smidgen of food-for-thought responses to them–perhaps mostly for my own enlightenment and prodding–that I shared from time to time with my students if they happened to be getting a little too enamored of creating excuses to spend their creativity on drawing, design, writing, painting, studying, researching, making mixed media installations, critiquing or any of the other topics I was attempting to encourage them to learn. Here are a few items from my little list, because I am well aware that I still need to remember them myself and keep trying to blow past them with determination and, I hope, a pinch of wit.

1          GREAT THINKERS THINK ONLY GREAT THOUGHTS

               (and I’m not a great thinker).

If this is true, explain why the Old Masters painted over or destroyed canvases, Einstein was virtually dismissed as a pea-brain by some in his school days and our early experts on astronomy believed the earth was flat.

2          GENIUS IS BORN, NOT MADE.

This may actually be so, but untended and un-exercised, genius has no value whatsoever, and many a great achiever has acknowledged beginning an illustrious career ignominiously and becoming expert through sheer will and work.

3          EXCELLENT IS GOOD, GOOD IS AVERAGE &

               AVERAGE IS TERRIBLE.

               (Corollary: Good is excellent, average is good, terrible is average!)

Creative and inventive people often have a penchant for self-disparagement and perfectionism that leads them (and often others) to devalue work of quality; it’s also a common temptation to simply fall back on the platitude of ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ and accept mediocrity because one is too fearful or lazy to be honestly critical and opinionated.  Accept it and get on with things.

4          IT DIDN’T TURN OUT THE WAY IT WAS SUPPOSED TO.

Oh, come on.  Almost nothing does.  Sometimes it just isn’t finished yet when it seems to have Not Turned Out.  And more often than not, the real result is an improvement on the original plan anyway.

5          IT CAN’T BE DONE.

It’s better to go down in flames of glory, for having tried, than to prove only that  you couldn’t (or just wouldn’t) do it.  And what if it does work?!  Don’t you just love those rare chances to say I Told You So, anyway?

6          ALL THE GOOD IDEAS ARE TAKEN.

            All of the good ones haven’t been invented yet, Silly.

7          I CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING.

You don’t have to.  Steal ideas all over the place.  Just remember to cite sources, give references, and wherever possible, to thoroughly revise and synthesize things into your own particular combination or version of them.

8          WHY SLAVE TO HAVE IT ALL WHEN YOU CAN SETTLE FOR LESS.

            Perhaps because apathy is as dangerous to existence as the threat of annihilation.

9          IT COSTS TOO MUCH.

Some of the same people who whimper over buying a five-dollar sketch pad and two ninety-nine-cent pencils (two weeks’ supply, say) think nothing of adding four dollars’ worth of popcorn and soft drinks to their seven-dollar movie tickets: that’s Whiners’ Math.  But most art supplies can be hideously expensive, especially for those productive enough to use masses of them.  So it’s a necessary and healthy part of the solution-oriented artist’s life that analogs and alternatives be a constant study.  What can legitimately serve as a substitute for the too-expensive?  Often the product of such inventiveness proves more exciting than the work as first conceived.  Sometimes it’s important to make the commitment to spend the real money for the real thing, too: how serious are you?

10        I’M NOT INSPIRED!

Genuine inspiration occurs ZERO times in the average artist’s life. WHAT!!! Heresy! But truly, if we’re talking spiritual/mystical magic, most must instead rely on a painstaking and passionate process of trial, error, adventure and eventual coalescence to allow artistic completion and quality to arise.  Don’t wait around to be inspired, in case it’s not in the cards: deadlines and opportunities wait for no one.  If you’re the incredibly lucky one inspiration smiles upon, have conspicuous spasms of joy, make feverish use of the favor while it lasts, and get ready to work hard on the next thing when you become a mere mortal again.  We’re lucky enough just to be able to be the real thing, Working Humans.  Don’t knock it.  There’s joy enough in that.

Stay tuned . . .

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. . . for being tuned up and ready to roll is more important than knowing where the road will take you . . .

 

Three Hundred Sixty-Five and Counting

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Please pardon my squeals of glee; I’m just a bit of a pig, my dears.

Yay me!

I know, I know, I say such things all the time, egotist and drama queen that I am. If you were really sick of my self-aggrandizement I assume you’d have had the good sense to stop coming here by now. Thank goodness I surround myself with people who, though otherwise entirely admirable in their many stellar qualities, are just loopy enough to spend time with me ungrudgingly and continue to share their own blogging abodes and the treasures therein with me in ceaseless generosity. But I am feeling a little extra pleased with myself these days for a couple of particular reasons. I’m just ridiculously slow to get it all underway appropriately.

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I guess I’m a real slowpoke by nature.

I am told that a recent post of mine was, in the tally of my benign WordPress overlords, number 365 in overall production here at the kiwsparks factory. That is, in the looser sense, a year’s worth of posts for a daily blogger. However, honesty and my personal traces of OCD move me to say that while I did indeed ‘officially’ commit only so far as one year’s worth of daily blogging, I hadn’t yet fulfilled that commitment to the letter since the one-per-day agenda began in earnest on, if I remember correctly, the 6th of July last year. Sure, who doesn’t need something to do to celebrate her wedding anniversary in a more special way than that boring old romantic stuff? So I had a second milestone of the 365 variety yet to achieve in two weeks. I did double-post a couple of times along the way when the whim emerged, but that in no way made me feel I had met the standard I set in my original plan. On the other hand, WordPress would no doubt find it arguable that I’ve posted, technically, daily, because the WP time stamp does not agree 100% with whatever time zone I’ve been in at various points along the year, so it dates my posts differently than I would, and I am happy to consider my own time zone the decisive one, even if it means typing madly until I can press Publish at the stroke (the clock’s or mine) of midnight. I’m nothing if not a control freak.

All of this being said, the rewards of committing to this year of daily blogging have been considerable and entirely worthwhile. I have gotten back into a dedicated practice of writing and creating visual as well as verbal images that is its own reward, to be sure. I am reminded of the need to Make Things on a regular basis and find pleasure in that process as well as sometimes amusing my own little silly self with the outcomes as well. Most of all, I have reconnected with a social side of myself that is sometimes less easy to access, as a more naturally introverted and even shy person who expresses her bolder and outwardly more comfortable character better in print than either in person or (quelle horreur!) on the telephone. Yes, my nearest and dearest will tell you that I am chatty (or verbose) and rather unfiltered in nature when around them, but of course many of you probably know exactly what I mean when I say that it is specific to my feeling safe and in familiar surroundings that brings out that extroverted version of me.

The biggest payoff in this blogging process is, of course, the presence of that sort of a Safe Place for me to have social interaction with a much wider range of wise and talented and fabulous and fascinating people from all over the world than previously possible. I may have had my own self-centered reasons for starting to blog, but it is you, my dear visitors, commenters and especially my blog-sharing friends, who have made it continue to be worthwhile and in ever increasingly fine ways. I have again been gifted with several blogging awards, and though the late spring-early summer schedule around here militated against my taking much time to respond properly, it is yet another reminder that my web community is generous and supportive as well as simply a fun and kindly group of people. So I must say further thanks to Dr. Dan and Susie and my delightful correspondent at veggiewhatnow for sharing their generosity of fine blogs and passing along blogging awards as well, respectively: the One Lovely Blog Award, Versatile Blogger and a recognition I’d never even heard of before, making me a Food Stories Nominee for Excellence in Storytelling. Cool! All of them, all of their blogs, and all of the kindness showered upon me.

I shall certainly try to honor the spirit, and hopefully the letter, of these awards but I’d appreciate it if you cut me a little slack when it comes to sharing those Fun Facts about myself (as if I haven’t poured enough of ’em on you to nearly drown y’all already). As usual, I’m so impressed and humbled by the astounding company I’m privileged to keep that I hope every one of you will click on my three admirable friends’ names above and take a leisurely visit at each of their sites to see just what wonders await you there. You will leave far less hungry and far smarter and happier, really, I assure you. Dr. Dan is a Canadian internist and foodie-supreme who posts all sorts of succulent, sweet and savory cookery to make you dream. The wise and funny blog susartandfood is the place where Susie beautifully publishes her own marvelous food, along with superb art, fantastic writing and a good dose of wit throughout. And veggiewhatnow is a land loaded with grand vegetarian ideas, terrific photos and illustrations and a whole lot of useful information that just doesn’t show up anywhere else in such a friendly format.

My sharing of bits of brilliance about myself, well, that’ll keep coming in all of the upcoming posts just as it has in every post so far.

And here are some fellow bloggers greatly deserving of my passing along these honors, along with all of my previous nominees (please search my site via the various awards’ names found in my sidebar if you’d like to see the many other deeply deserving folk I so enjoy sharing with you):

logo + photoFor the Versatile Blogger Award, I happily commend to you the following standout bloggers: Mandy, filling The Complete Cookbook not only with gorgeous food and the photos thereof but also all sorts of domestic derring-do and lovely forays into the history (familial and wider-reaching) of landscape, pets, garden and more; Marie, managing a grand kitchen, a busy family, a beautiful property and gardens, and a dog who thinks she’s queen of the active crew of local wildlife, blogs at My Little Corner of Rhode Island; Claire, the travel, garden, cookery and photography (and more) blogger of Promenade Plantings; the supposedly year-stricken K, writing year-struck‘s wide-ranging, scintillating, touching and bracingly intelligent while often still hilarious tales; and Bishop, savoring through his Backyard Farm the natural approach to gardening, cooking, travel and the appreciation of fine libations both home-brewed and otherwise.

logo + photoFor the One Lovely Blog Award, I’m pleased to present: David, painting heart-stoppingly beautiful portraits and teaching lessons to lucky painters over at davidreidart (which my computer appropriately translates for me as ‘daredevilry’); Lindy Lee, weaving poems of the heart and telling tales that transfix, on Poetic LicenseeNitzus, magnificent and insightful photographer spreading the admiration of memorable and remarkable people, places and creatures far and wide through his self-named site; Cyndi, bookchick extraordinaire, wending her way through collected poems, stories and essays of her own, and stellar photography in the pages of cfbookchick; and Dennis, that inimitable Bard on the Hill, whose poetry spills out of the Texas hill country in rivers shared with poems he’s selected from many other fine poets.

logo + photoAnd for the Excellence in Storytelling recognition I enthusiastically nominate: Celi, at that magically inviting sustainable homestead, thekitchensgarden; John, who writes hymns of Italianate glory from the Bartolini kitchens; Tanya, la reina of the Spanish mountains’ bounty at chicaandaluza; Barbara, who has far more than justasmidgen of exquisiteness to share at her blog; and cookingspree‘s mistress of fabulousness at table, in the kitchen, and whatever amazing places she goes, Antoinette. All of my best to you–and theirs, too! Cheers, my friends.

A small footnote: while I am deeply honored and pleased to have been so generously given these recognitions, I am going to refrain from further award acceptance lest I spend too much of my time polishing my medals and strutting around in my tutu and tiara and too little time, well, blogging. Much ground left to cover, I’m pretty sure, even if I don’t yet know what it is. Meanwhile, you good people should busy yourselves with exploring the wealth of illumination at all of these other blogs too–so much fun ahead for everyone.photoPS–while I’m cresting this wave of self-promotional adulation, I’ll just mention that today at Zazzle.com there is a one-day 50% off sale on all of their posters and wrapped canvases, and mine are all over the site and pretty dirt cheap to start with, so if you go over there and search for kiwsparks you’ll see all sorts of affordable art, much of which has been seen on this blog before, on sale. Just saying.

http://www.zazzle.com/zazzle7thbirthday

Foodie Tuesday: Potato Famished

photoI’m going to keep this supremely simple. I love potatoes. Among my ridiculously long list of edible loves, potatoes rank pretty high on the list. It’s clear that my Viking ancestry designed my particular corporeal form to be composed of 70% potato water, so I’m spending my years just fueling it up as best I can.

Barring allergies or outright dislike, it’s hard not to admire the potato regardless of one’s lineage. It’s one of the most inspiringly versatile foodstuffs on this little old planet. There’s hardly anything that a potato can’t gussy up nicely. Let me just commune with the spirit of the potato here for a moment:

Boiled, roasted, fried, baked, steamed. Even raw. Yes, on rare occasions Mom gave them to us sliced like cold little potato bruschetti, buttered and salted and munched out of hand. Odd, but not unpleasant. Still, I’m a little more of an old stick in the mud and like them best cooked up one way or another. Grated, mashed, bashed, diced. Sliced and made into insanely tasty (and of course buttery as can be) Hasselback potatoes. Cooked and smashed, with lots of gloriously rich cream. French fried, skin on, in beef fat. Scalloped with a passel of cheese. Okay, you caught me. I’m stuck as always on my beloved theme of delicious FATS. Yeah, I yelled. Ahem. Now, back to our regularly scheduled swooning over potatoes. Tenderly toothsome cubes in vegetable soup or clam chowder or some dreamy slow-cooked stew. Crisply golden-browned hash browns tenderly steaming at heart. Silky smooth in a luscious cool Vichyssoise.

And of course, sometimes nothing else can possible compare to a fine and dandy baked potato. Say, served with tonight’s very simply cooked steak and very simply plain romaine and tomato salad. Just halve the russet potatoes, coat well with coconut oil, place cut side down in a baking pan and then stab them thoroughly in the back with a fork or knife to prevent in-oven explosion (or zombie resurrection, if that’s your concern), salt them well with coarse good salt, and bake until they’re tender inside and crispy outside (circa 20-30 minutes, depending on the oven and the size of your potatoes) at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Some things can’t really be improved, now, can they.photo

Most Fun ‘Disease’ Award: the Bluebonnet Plague

Spring in Texas is a highly variable thing. Like most regions where I’ve lived or visited, north Texas can rightly claim (any day, any part of the year) that if you don’t like the weather, all you have to do is wait five minutes. Ma Nature is that sort of fickle filly. She treats us mighty differently from moment to moment, season to season, and from year to year, too. So while last year, the drought and excessive heat both started early enough that we saw virtually nothing of the vaunted swaths of Lupinus texensis, the state flower, the Texas Bluebonnet, this year’s mildness and largesse of rains has kissed the sullen banks of the highways, the pastures and prairies, and not a few lawns, with a brilliant return, as if our nature-mistress apologized with flowers for running off and abandoning us to sere and lonely brownness all of last season.photoThe extravaganza began with a wild froth of yellow sprayed over nearly everything–it’s a wildflower form of mustard known by many names and perhaps most commonly here as bastard cabbage, that nomenclature derived from the rosette at its base that resembles a false cabbage, but Texans probably embracing the less kindly interpretation of its first name because it has spread so widely as to be an invasive and predatory plant whose tough rosettes block out the bluebonnets‘ rise. While I would hate to see it usurp the blue beauty of the state flower, the wild mustard‘s foam floating over the rolling grasslands is a very pretty herald of the return of spring’s wildflowers.

Following the arrival of the mustard, in quick succession, the verges are airbrushed, in turn, with the purples of several vetch-and-clover-like wildflowers I don’t yet know after moving to this region, then the red hues of Texas Paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa), then the sea of bluebonnets, punctuated by handfuls of the pale pink-and-white tissue of Lady Bird Johnson‘s favorites, the Showy Evening Primroses (Oenothera speciosa).photoWhen you’re just moseying along, running errands and minding your own business and an explosion of living color appears before your very eyes, it’s not something you just ignore. If you’re me, you ask your husbandly chauffeur to be so kind as to pull over in the empty lot across the street from the biggest mass nearby so you can hop out and ogle, and take a few pictures. See, there’s this little bit of tension in the romance with wildflowers. As easy on the eye as nearly all of them are, they are, ahem, wild. People don’t really like wild very well, a lot of the time: everybody wishes in his or her secret heart to control the world–at least, to believe they can do so. Wildflowers grow and bloom when and where they are wiling and able to do it, and in many cases they’re not all that cooperative when we try to grow them on purpose. Never mind when the weather patterns of the moment aren’t as particularly conducive to their happiness, health and vigor as they could be. When the blossoming wild does decide to make a grand entrance, however, it can create these impressive and celebratory masses of glory right across the most inhospitable-seeming acres of dirt and weediness. Because, after all, wildflowers are weeds; weeds, wildflowers. As witness the aggressive behavior of the deceptively dainty-looking bastard cabbages, sweeping right over the top of the other spring blooms like a vegetable horde of Huns or Visigoths and laying siege until the smaller, weaker plants succumb and yield their ground.photoLike humans and animals and plants of all kinds, every living thing in fact that populates the earth, wildflowers are essentially invaders and will happily fill in any available space when they’re good and ready to do so. A plague upon the earth! Thankfully, unlike most species, wildflowers, whether annual or perennial, tend to repay their carbon debt rather quickly, subsiding into glorious compost almost as quickly as they arrived on the loam of last year’s dead. So I say, three cheers for the Texas Bluebonnet, which survives drought and depredation, bad seasons and bad gardeners, and gives us a massive dose of grand color virtually for free, then turns around politely and sacrifices its glories for the good of next year’s, or next decade’s, wild display.photo