March 23, 2019

tulips from St Patrick's Day, Descanso
Tulip Display at the Descanso Garden on St. Patrick’s Day, 2019 (watercolor and Inktense pencil on watercolor paper)

With all my complaining about our wet and cooler weather lately, it was in the mid 70s on St Patrick’s Day. (A friend who was in Chicago at the time said it was 28 degrees) So, no, I can’t complain about our weather except to say that if it stays warm the tulips you see here won’t last very long. They are native to places like the Netherlands, where it’s cool and rainy in the spring. Warm and dry sunny southern CA may not be the best place for such delicate and ephemeral flowers.

This post is dedicated to the memory of my mother. She passed away mid-August 2016. I know, I know, it’s not even close to August, but I started One California Girl the following March 25th–her birthday. As this is the two-year anniversary of that first blog I thought it would be fitting to exalt the tulip in honor of my mom’s birthday and the coming of spring. I had actually planned to feature irises, but saw only one in bloom that day. My mom had these amazing deep purple old-fashioned scented irises in her garden that I seem to remember blooming in early spring. I thought I would look for some purple irises. Of course that was in her Grass Valley garden, so I’m not really sure why I thought they would be around here right now. But the Descanso Garden tulips were so beautiful it took my breath away, and it was a “no brainer” to paint them for my mom instead. There were countless drifts of colorful tulips just outside the rose garden. Everywhere I looked there were lovely blobs of different colors perched primly on tall green stems. So, I found a lovely bench in the shade, and was able to capture this stunning swath of two different shades of red tulips. I normally don’t refer to myself, or anyone for that matter, saying they were ABLE to do something. I’m always of the belief that whether or not you are ABLE to do something can, at times, be purely subjective. But, the large rocks and path in front of these beauties was crawling with people looking for photo opportunities and it was quite a challenge to wait for various drifts of people, strollers et al to take their photos, move on and out of my view. There was one guy who laid sideways on the rocks in the foreground, twice, for what seemed a long time for each side view. It appeared that he was trying to capture some kind of other worldly photo of that mass of red. I mean, what kind of photo of flowers would you take lying on your side? He was wearing a purple Scientology T-shirt, so I wasn’t going to ask him anything. I just waited for him to leave…twice.

My mom used to say that she was the product of her generation. And when I heard her say that as a young girl I wasn’t quite sure what she meant. Sadly, it seemed to me then and even now, that there were things and/or people that made her unhappy a lot of the time. As I got older, I realized that she loved us very much and tried to be a good mom, even though there was some unseen part of her that doomed her to bouts of extreme disappointment and sadness. She was an excellent grandma to my son and it was nice to think that even though she often seemed unhappy when we were growing up, she finally got it right when she was presented with grandchildren.

If I think back on a time that she truly was the happiest, it would have to be when we lived in Saratoga. A builder helped my mom and dad design their house. They painstakingly designed every inch of that house. As my mom was quite a good cook she was especially keen to get her kitchen right. I remember her saying that she loved all the storage she had and she never had to work at putting groceries away because her pantry was just the right size. And if I think of several memories related to that house and kitchen, mash them all together, it paints a nice picture of a time she was happy.

During those years my parents would invite gangs of families to eat barbeque and swim in the pool during summer. I remember one particular warm evening when a friend was particularly enjoying a meal my mom had prepared. I don’t remember what kind of meat she cooked, but fresh corn on the cob was featured. I remember that we had had a bumper crop of corn in the garden next to our fruit trees. So, huge bowls of corn on the cob were prepared for that dinner. The friend enjoyed the fresh picked corn so much, that when the bowls were finally empty he asked permission go out in the garden and pick more. My mom was over the moon with smiles and of course said, “Yes!” She left a large pot of water on the stove, at a slow rolling boil, for him to cook his corn. He schlepped out to the garden countless times to pick the corn. When he came back in he shucked, boiled and ate every bit of that corn, one at a time with no butter or salt. By the time he had finally finished that amazing corn feed he had eaten 7 ears of corn. I thought my mom was going to die from happiness, so happy to feed a hungry and wonderful friend. Of course, the wine was flowing too and all were having a great time. Later, when my parents got together with that friend and his family, they often recalled the great ears of fresh corn that were consumed that evening.

It seemed those Saratoga summer dinners always included some kind of barbeque. I remember walking out onto the deck one evening to see my mom hovering over the chicken or tri tip or whatever, wearing one of my brother’s face masks from the pool to keep the smoke out of her eyes. My brothers and I thought that pretty funny as she was terrified of the water and wouldn’t get near the pool except to check the chemicals and briefly dunk in the water at the shallow end when it was just too hot to bear. She always had a swimming suit, but I don’t think they ever wore out from use. That’s OK mom, we all loved to swim, were very comfortable swimmers, and I know it made you happy that we were safe in the water.

small cookbook cover
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, 1981

Other happy times I remember for her involved a restaurant she worked at as a volunteer. It was called Village House and the money they made selling lunches and wedding receptions was given to the Ming Quong Home in Los Gatos. She was involved with Village House (and later Village House and Garden) while we lived in Saratoga and later after we moved to a Victorian in Los Gatos. Village House is no longer there and I imagine the building is probably gone too. After the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, a lot of buildings in Los Gatos had to come down and maybe that one did too. I kind of hope the oak that was out front is still there. I think my mom was pretty happy in the house in Los Gatos, but she would often comment about missing her great Saratoga kitchen.

mulligatawny stew
A favorite family recipe. Did my mom actually add 1/4 cup of fat? Yikes! I use a couple tablespoons of olive oil.

Here’s to the Village House cookbook and one of our family’s favorite recipes, Mulligatawny Stew. My dad loved this stuff! My aunt’s birthday was yesterday, so I am making the stew for a family gathering for my aunt and mom’s birthdays tomorrow. Mom, I know if you were here, making one of your recipes from the Village House cookbook for the family would definitely make you happy.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

(March 25th)

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