Hearts & Flowers

When I was 5, I thought Valentine's Day an almost perfect holiday. The first graders were busy making and giving Valentines to each other. The holiday seemed perfect because it included art, my favorite subject, and it contained attention, through the mail, from my distant relatives.

Betty, my next door neighbor, and I, set up a mailbox halfway between our houses. The mailbox was just a large tin can, stuck between the fence boards next to our barn, but Betty, who was already in the first grade, would make valentines just for me. And I, wanting for all the world to actually be a first grader, too, would spend days making valentines out of construction paper and homemade flour-and-water-glue and cut out the envelopes and make little postage stamps and post them in our mailbox. I wanted Valentine's Day to last forever, and somehow stretched it all the way to Easter when a whole new genre of artwork arrived. I liked the way of folding a sheet of paper in half and cutting out a heart, then seeing what I could make out of it. I didn't care anything about the sentiments, I had never heard of St. Valentine, I just liked making cards out of paper.

Our friend, Billy Joe Tatum, for the nearly 30 years I've known her, likes to make valentines, often collages from magazines, laminated together, and mailed from either Romance, Arkansas (a service the Post Office offers), or Kissee Mills, Missouri. She sends a package that holds a few dozen valentines, ready to send, and the post office postmarks them.

Driving along the road across Tennessee last week, snowy, cold, dreary day that it was, I spied this barn and had to turn around and take a pic. You may even see some snowflakes in the photo, between my open, truck window, and this handsome barn. It made me wonder who designed it, a man for his wife, who had been asking for a barn for her favorite hobbies? Or maybe the woman had it designed and built for her husband's hobbies?
And because V.Day has evolved into a day of food more than it has cute paper valentines, here are some recipes to play with. This first one, Sweet Potato Pudding Cake, is from the January issue of Eating Well, a magazine I like. It's pretty darned tasty and has its origins in a traditional Jamican sweet potato pudding.
Sweet Potato Pudding Cake

1 cup raisins, soaked in 2 tablespoons rum
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (better texture than reg. flour)
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large sweet potato, cooked and peeled (to make 1 3/4 cup)
3 large eggs
1 14-ounce can lite coconut milk
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter,

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Coat a 9 in. spring form pan with cooking spray.
Mix flour, nutmeg and salt together. In a separate bowl, mash the sweet potato, add the eggs and beat well until combined. Add coconut milk, brown sugar and melted butter, mixing. Mix in the dry ingredients then add the raisins and any remaining rum. Spread batter in the prepared pan. Add topping:
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut, 2 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1/8 tsp. cinnamon, mixed together. Sprinkle over cake and bake for 1 hour to 1 hr. 15 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool then top with whipped cream.

Or make this for V's Day, from my book, Growing the Top 10 Most Popular Herbs.

Lavender Shortcake with Strawberries

1 cup plus 6 Tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried lavender
1/4 cup chilled butter
About 4 1/2 Tbsp. cold water.

Grind together the sugar and lavender flowers in a food processor until the lavender is broken up into smaller pieces. Mix in the flour, salt and butter and pulse blend. Add the cold water and pulse blend a few times until the dough sticks together (if it doesn't add another teaspoon of water and pulse again). Remove dough from food processor, roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Roll out the chilled dough until it's slightly thicker than a pie crust and cut with biscuit cutter (or heart-shaped cookie cutter). Lay on ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly browned around the edges, about 10-12 minutes. Cool, then to serve, spoon sliced strawberries in a bowl, top with the lavender shortcake and top with whipped cream. (I usually serve this with lavender whipped cream, too, the recipe to be found in my same book).

If I was still just 5, this horse photo I snapped in Memphis, would make a great Valentine's Day card. It has lots of color, icicles, stands out (I never found out why there were horses scattered about town, all painted differently). But here it is - Happy Valentine's Day, however you choose to celebrate it, from my electronic mail box to yours.


Anonymous said...

What fun! I love public art. Here in the Boston, MA area artists did cows as a fundraiser so maybe that is what was behind this painted horse. I'll have to try the sweet potato dessert as it looks interesting. I wish spring was on its way here but it won't be not until at least April. chrisq

compost in my shoe said...

Happy Valentine's day to you too! Like the horse picture. Although, she looks a little cold.

alice said...

I live in Germantown so I have enjoyed your tour thru our area. Germantown has a long history of "horse people", they rode down some of the roads when I moved here 35 years ago and horses are still our "trademark". Several years ago those horses, about 15 of them were given to area artists who showed enormous creativity decorating them. They were sold with money going to a charity and most that were sold were placed in public places for the enjoyment of visitors like you!

Anonymous said...

I'll bet the horses are like the cows some cities scatter around to
raise money for charity. Different organizations paint them creatively and get to set them up outside their offices for a period of time.
I've seen them in several cities.


Jim Long said...

Thanks for all the comments about the horse, and for letting me know what the project was about. I had guessed it might be a fundraiser of some sort. I have noticed some interesting similar public art projects around the country. Back in some old blog posts I showed some pics of sheep from North Carolina. Branson, MO, near where I live, tried something similar, which turned out pretty poorly. They did butterflies, but it didn't take hold and the few that were displayed, no one really knew why they were there. But the horses, those were great!

Dittony said...

Seattle did pigs and had a guide to seek them out. Salt Lake City did Buffalo and Vancouver BC has eagles.

Great blog Jim Thank you

Betsy Bird said...

I'm glad you like the horse. I painted it as part of the Germantown Horse Show Painted Horses project, "The Horses are Coming." It is painted in acrylic and clear coated with auto spray to preserve it. The name of the horse is "Flower Power." There are more photos of my 3D work on my website at www.artbybetsybird.com.
But, at any rate, I stumbled across this and it made me smile, because my art made someone happy.