Gardening Rituals

You don’t have to be a gardener to benefit from these rituals, they will fit almost anywhere.  In fact, they already reside in kitchens, business and just plain daily living. They are born from common sense, you remember that right?

Start Early

If you’re going to get anywhere in the garden, or any of the above alternatives, you’ve got to start early.  Plant at the optimum time.  Seeds and seedlings (or ideas for that matter) have an optimum time to go in the ground not just to survive but to flourish.  It makes no sense to defy your cleared frost date or you’ll find yourself starting again.  It makes no sense to plant fall crops at the beginning of spring.  You’ll want a progression that builds on the changes of the growing season (or the market…) to take full advantage of the varied conditions.

You’ll also want to start early in the day.  Before the sun beats on your back and exhausts you and burns you (or burns you out).  Pace yourself to the environment you’re working in, be aware of the changes and use them to your advantage.  For example, get your plants in before the rain so they get a good soaking and weed after the rain when the soil will yield to your hoe.

Gardening Mise En Place

There is no difference between kitchen mise en place and gardening mise en place.  Everything must be in its place in order to conserve your energy, insure good flow, prevent injury, and make this gardening work a pleasure.  Another part of mise en place is to clean as you go.  At the end of your morning in the garden when you’re done you’re done, no back and forth and diminishing the joy you’ve just experienced with gathering and cleaning the multitude of tools you’ve used.  More than anything this insures nothing will be left behind in the garden. There is nothing worse than wondering where the hell that damn trowel went…

Protect Against Intruders

In a community garden there are a different set of intruders.  There are the rabbits.  There are the deer.  There are the birds.  There are the residents…and yes there are the other gardeners.  It’s true there are times we just can’t help ourselves.  Just one seed pod.  Just one cutting. Just one clump of this overgrown name the perennial.  We don’t mean to steal, in fact I don’t think any gardener considers this stealing but just the same we sometimes forget to ask first.

Fencing becomes one of the most popular ways to protect against intruders and many a community garden becomes strewn with ingenious and elaborate fencing. Most gardeners prefer not to use chemicals to keep pests away, especially if they are growing edibles, so any number of home remedies can literally stink up the place.  This too might keep away the human poachers.

Rest and Pace Yourself

Gardening, especially at the beginning of the season, can be back breaking work.  I’ve learned from the elder gardeners to set small tasks for myself and assign them over the course of different days. I can see the changes in their gardens each week when I return.  It is incredibly hard to do but in the end it prevents me from becoming debilitated too early.  I do get there eventually (not debilitated)…and by that time the garden just needs occasional grooming and then of course harvesting.


This is the equivalent of whistling while you work.  Gardening is like many pastimes in that it is at once joyful and frustrating, you know like golf. But occupying all the areas of the brain can reduce the frustration part of whatever pastime you call your own while increasing the joy centers. Science says so and despite the recent maligning of scientific findings, I still believe in it wholeheartedly.

This woman was clapping her feet together to release the dirt from within the treads of her shoes just moments before I took this picture.  All the while singing in her native language delighted that she had completed her morning in the garden.

Our lives are full of rituals, they are a combination of habit and proven technique.  Without them we just go face first into one thing or another without a compass or guidebook.  They are ordinary and brilliant and give us comfort and guidance especially if they are handed down by those who have become experts.

Enjoy your week.


Lekvaar Bars

I had the pleasure and privilege of joining my neighbor, Barbara Oreshnick, in her kitchen recently to learn how to make her holiday Lekvaar Bars. Lekvar (which is the most common way to spell the name) is a fruit butter of central and eastern European origin.  It is smooth, creamy, rich and delicious.  It can be made from any number of different kinds of fruits but Barbara prefers Lekvar made from prune.

This recipe, a Russian Polish version,  came from her mother-in-law.  The funny thing about this recipe is that it might never have come into Barbara’s recipe book along with her mother-in-law’s poppy seed cake and nut rolls.  Seems Barbara never wanted to try these delectable bites…then….once she finally tasted them she was hooked.  I can see why and I’m grateful she’s carried on the tradition.

Barbara’s kitchen is nostalgic and warm.  It gives a nod back to a certain period in time when not everything needed to be upgraded to the latest and greatest simply for the sake of upgrading.

The process is much like making any basic dough.

Speaking of nostalgia the site of Barbara’s canisters sent my heart reeling.  For those of you who know me, vintage aluminum is my jam…these were a shower gift to Barbara back in 1954.  Oh how I adore them.

Then on to forming the dough. You’ll notice the jelly roll pan is not greased.

Now for that wonderful Lekvar.

The filling is spread thick and evenly across the dough. Barbara makes the painstaking process of shingling the upper crust of the bars look easy in that “these hands have done this a hundred times” kind of way.

As I watch Barbara I’m reminded of our Italian crostata.  Similar in that it has a bottom layer, a fruit filling but instead of shingling the upper crust we cut strips and make the lattice top.  The first time I tasted these Lekvaar Bars I knew there was a familiarity about them, now I made the connection.  I once had a wonderful crostata recipe that somehow got misplaced so I can see re-purposing this recipe in that direction.  I know Barbara won’t mind.

Into the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Like most experienced baker’s Barbara has a system for clean up and my time with her was coming to a close.

Days later, when I came home from a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration I found a bag of goodies hanging from the nob on my front door.  I couldn’t wait to open them up.

They did not disappoint, they were absolutely delicious.  Even more so now that I know their history.  I can’t thank Barbara enough for sharing this heritage recipe with me, and now you.  The thought of these wonderful morsels being lost just breaks my heart.  I hope you’ll give them a try, I know like I know you will enjoy every crumb.


Sing Every Day

“He who sings scares away his woes.” ― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

It’s no secret I like to poke around the community gardens at the senior housing building where my mother lives.  It’s rich in soil, produce and wisdom.  This is Amalia (not sure of the spelling), who I met enjoying the day in the gardens several months ago.


Can I take your picture? Instead of saying yes she got up and posed near one of the planted areas.  It’s such a reflection of that generation that having one’s picture taken means posing near just the right spot.  I have dozens of them, mostly black and white that look just like this.

Even with our language barrier we had a wonderful conversation about my mother and the lifestyles of the elders living in the building. Her advice to my mother was simple, sing every day.  Singing she said does something healthy to the brain.  She motioned that the energy travels up from your voice to your brain and fills it with something wonderful that travels back down and through your whole body.


It can’t help but make you happy every day.  Her song was delightful, though I didn’t know a word of it, and I could indeed feel it travel from her voice to my brain and through my whole body.  I smiled all day. Thank you for that good advice, which I passed along to my mother and now to you.

“And all meet in singing, which braids together the different knowings into a wide and subtle music, the music of living. ” ― Alison Croggon,




August was…

August was

Bee-like.  Busy in a laid back sweltering way, creatively productive, sweet in its return on courage manifested and hopeful.  I had the opportunity to take part in August Break 2016 on Instagram.  Using the thoughtful prompts from Susannah Conway I thoroughly enjoyed each day of capturing my ordinary take on the subject and sharing among her many followers.  Making space on her site for us to share our blogs shows the true measure of her generosity.  Not only am I grateful but I’ve taken away many a lesson.

One of the prompts was “handwriting”. Of course it came at the exact moment I was trying to figure out where to start my summer work:

once you see it

It was my intention to use my down time to launch the Elder Beauty Project instead I’ve scraped it.  As a project, I’ve scrapped it as a project because the real project is and always has been Ordinary Legacy. Thank you David for reminding me of that and now I see it again.

The fact that I’m tired of talking about myself remains.  While this has been the outcome of my summer work, the month long journey to get there has been amazing.  After a somewhat delayed start, read procrastinated for weeks, I worked up my courage to send an email to the director of the Mahwah Senior Center, Susanne Small, telling her about what I do and how I’d love to do it.  She loved the idea, with enthusiasm and more generosity I was invited to the center to share my vision.  I was also invited to speak with several of the seniors about my vision.  While they are a bit curious, I’ll need to come back with a bit more for them.  Suffice to say you’ll be seeing more of this:

sr wood carvers0011

Susanne has graciously offered to work with me to develop the questions most likely to yield the result I’m looking for, she knows our seniors and what makes them open up.  I’ll be able to leave brochures for them to consider working with me sharing bits of the ordinary that make their lives distinct.  That got me investigating and developing a concept brochure.

Which in turn led to Bergen County Camera, where collectively they know everything, to look for a new lens for my DSLR.  I mean they know everything so showing them what I do now and how I want to tweak it took a bit more courage.  They didn’t flinch at my work, thank God. It always helps to lead with the fact that you understand full well that you are an accidental photographer… I have a new lens, which I like but the jury’s still out on whether or not it will perform the magic I require.  What? I’m practicing and keeping an open mind, I mean believing in my talent…like I always say, you shoot enough you’re bound to hit something.

True to form once you allow yourself to see it, you will see it everywhere.  Like here:

Amalia 20152

And here:

eagle scout project005

And here:

2016-08-27 09.26.04

These are the stories, the ordinary legacy stories that have been right under my nose while I was too busy being all about me.  Not very Jeanette-like as it turns out.

So going forward Ordinary Legacy will continue to be about preserving the ordinary stories that are all around, hopefully full of senior insight, definitely traditional recipes that may be lost, collections and oh those amazing ordinary legacy moments in time.

I can’t let go of the Heartlines series I just started because it’s been so well received.  If you haven’t seen them yet, they are heart shaped letters to a specific someone but not addressed to them.  They tackle that someone’s current situation/dilemma/angst/ without mentioning their name.  In the end there are always several people who would swear that the Heartline is meant for them.  The beauty of us all being in the same boat as it turns out.

For me September has always been the beginning of the New Year.  I don’t do resolutions but I can see this year I’m headed away from Facebook, because their algorithms are becoming a pain in the ass, and leaning toward and loving Instagram where images=stories, duhhh.  I’m glad to be back, renewed and ready to keep allowing myself to see all those ordinary stories I’ve been overlooking.  Hope you’ll stay tuned and join forces along with me.

I Know Like I Know 2015

File Nov 27, 2 18 19 PM

Wisdom comes from anything that has ever healed in your life. The intensity and number of those things varies throughout your life. I’ve often quoted Zora Neale Hurston’s view of some years ask the questions and some years answer them. With the years that answer comes the healing and the wisdom. With what could have become a downward spiral came the answers this year.


We lost our Lina to a nasty cancer that moved quickly and thoroughly allowing only enough time for us to realize that this little girl who suffered so terribly from anxiety her whole life could indeed be brave. Her sister showed us how to heal in the most basic way, forget yourself and give your love to someone else, her Gramma. This is the love affair that saved us all.

Ida Ravioli (37)

I had the pleasure of being a part of two very different stories this year. Spending time with Ida and learning how to make ravioli in her company along with her family will stay with me forever. Food traditions are a recurring theme on this blog, and so important to the development of individual and family legacies. Documenting them is becoming more and more imperative so they are not lost.

bills dad

Along those lines I had the privilege of reading and sharing a wonderful story about my friend Bill’s father. He had documented his feelings about the world and his place in it when Bill was just a year old. In retrospect he set about embracing and living up to his story in big and small ways. What a treasure to preserve for generations to come.

Story preservation kept ringing in my ears, these lessons taught unwittingly with integrity and honesty are invaluable. From the tiniest gestures, to the unique talents, to the surprises and family folklore and secrets our elders are an untapped resource that I fear will be lost. And so the Elder Beauty Project started to take shape. This coming year I hope you’ll give some thought to highlighting someone in your life and contact this story preservationist to assist.

File Apr 26, 4 21 35 PM.jpeg

Through some serendipitous clicking around the internet my sister and I found ourselves on a mountain in Ludlow VT. More than once after our return we’ve found ourselves saying it’s the best thing we’ve ever done. Green Mountain at Fox Run provided hope among the birch with lessons on Food, Movement and Mindfulness. Most importantly they provided a very safe place to make it your intention to let go of something that no longer serves you. And that we did.

File Nov 22, 2 46 01 PM

For me it was letting go of my story. The one I’ve been carrying around for decades, the one that wasn’t mine to carry around, and the one that I feared would become my legacy. The most courageous thing that I have done to date is write my story, and the story of ordinary legacy, and submit it to Women for One for consideration as one of their Truthtellers. Happily, gratefully, humbly they accepted and published my story, I am now a Truthteller. That my story may somehow help someone else in a similar situation is of great comfort to me but the healing has been of even greater solace. With healing comes the wisdom.

Blogger Recognition Award 2015

I was also nominated for a blogger recognition award. I don’t know if there is an actual award or if someone simply thought highly enough of my work to give it recognition through sharing but I am grateful to Maria Baird of Manifesting Me none the less.

This is the first year in many decades that I’ve had my picture taken and shared so often. Frankly I’ve had my picture taken more this year than in the last ten years. I’ve spent an eternity behind the camera but never in front. It became clear to me through all this good work that if your intention is to leave a legacy they may as well know what you look like, no? Now I’d love to find someone who can really capture who I really am on film, stay tuned.

The year was filled with friends, old, new and new/old. Retirement (41)


ellie and doris

File Aug 09, 3 54 53 PM

2015-03-20 17.43.28-1File Mar 01, 9 28 53 AM.jpegIda Ravioli (46)

Not least among them was Wanda. She shared her beautiful Cape home, her sorrows and her joys with me as if we’d just hung up from each other last week. It is a wonderful gift to connect with someone so quickly with complete trust. I look forward to sharing all that is the story of us in the coming years.


I finally found Instagram. Seriously, I started a 365 in November and am enjoying the hell out of it. You can find me on Instagram @ordinarylegacy or you can follow the hashtag #lifeonstowelane. I know you’re shocked by both of those. There is that moment when you realize that a hashtag of your own is cool but other common hashtags can connect you to others and some very funny or poignant stories and oh yeah it can connect people to you…#wetdog is a favorite as is #fromwhereistand. Took me awhile but this old dog learned a new trick, just sayin.

2015-04-05 11.40.48-1

And so this was the year of wisdom through healing. Watching my mother, aka Gramma, with Toti Nonna has made me realize all we ever really need is a loving connection. Watching my sister let go of the grief that no longer serves her has brought laughter and ease and renewal. Watching others heal through my words has brought gratitude and responsibility. Healing has brought me wisdom. I look forward, like never before, to the coming year, the coming decade and the continued wisdom it will bring. I hope you will continue to honor me with your presence on Ordinary Legacy and join me in preserving even more stories through the Elder Beauty Project.  Stay tuned to find out what’s happening on Stowe Lane…