Who Is Anastasia?

My photo
New Castle, Indiana Zone 5, United States
When I was 55, I decided to embrace the things I love and hold precious and dear - regardless of anyone else's thoughts and opinion. I am a folk artist who loves flowers - my own flowers, grown by me. I love good, hearty, exotic foods, and I love to prepare them myself. I love the secret garden situated in my backyard, regardless of how junky it gets. No longer able to afford a vacation, this will have to be it for the time being. In the winter months, I still enjoy it. Anyway, here I am sharing my art, favorite recipes, cocktails, gardening tips, and just my usual vents and bantering. After all, I'm old enough to say whatever the heck I want to now ... Oh, the two pictures below are NOT of my garden, although the one with the pink French doors looks very much like the backyard I grew up with. I am searching for pictures of that wonderful place and will post soon.

JEWELS OF MY SOUL

JEWELS OF MY SOUL
My Book Available on AMAZON

Stacey Torres ART Prints

Stacey Torres ART Prints
A very limited selection of reproductions from my paintings can be found here

June 27, 2016

NOW, THAT'S A PEACH!


It's called a Patio Peach – a small ornamental peach tree usually displayed in large planters, and often brought indoors to overwinter in cooler climates. I guess I bought mine about nine years ago from a garden center in Indianapolis. After a few months of basking in the sun in the backyard, she seemed quite content. So, I took a chance and planted her in the ground about 12 feet away from the back door. After all, how big could a dwarf sized “patio” peach tree get?

My Patio Peach grew to about 4.5 feet tall, and thrived for two summers. However, I lost her during a sudden ice storm one April, and cut her down the following month. What I didn't realize, however, was that I had failed to chop and eliminate a sucker that was growing from the base of the stump. Over the next year and a half, that sucker grew into a beautiful 12 foot tall peach tree with branches that spanned about 15 feet in my garden. This created a glorious little canopy that replaced the umbrella that used to tumble over into the day lily bed every time a slight breeze came.

Patsy's Gifts
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In the summer of 2010, the reincarnated Patsy – that was her name – began to bear fruit. Small walnut sized peaches with pretty unblemished thick peach skin. Because she had been an ornamental tree in her former life, I just accepted these little treasures as bonus eye candy. One afternoon, my mother and I sat at the kitchen table; her watching television, and me baking muffins for the farmers market.

“Did you put something special in those muffins?” she asked.
No. Like what?”
You didn't put any rum or brandy in them?”
NO! Why?”
Well, I smell booze,” she said.

I sniffed around, and I did too. It smelled a lot like the starter for her Friendship Cakes she used to bake. But, I had nothing like that around, and rum cakes were not on my menu for the market – that week.
The smell was so distracting, she stopped watching her show, and I was inhaling like a Bloodhound.

Do you have a bottle of something open?”
No. I told you I don't have anything ...”

Me & Patsy 2012
My nose led me to the back door and out into the garden. And there it was! Those darn little peaches had become ripe – over ripe, and were beginning to ferment right on the trees. Bees were fluttering around and bumping into everything. Hummingbirds were flapping their wings wildly, and I reached up and plucked a small perfectly round mini peach. Biting into it was probably the most surprisingly delectable experience I had (that summer). It had firm white flesh, yet it was juicy and intensely sweet. It was also like taking a shot of peach brandy with fur. I gathered up a few, and my mother and I gobbled mini peaches for hours! We were in some sort of shock and stupor, so I don't remember supper, television, or how anything else got baked that day. We had to harvest what we could quickly, because the fruit's time was short lived.

Patsy gave us an abundance of sweet tiny peaches for a few years. On Labor Day of 2010, the day was hot, still, and very quiet when we had a wondrous visitor to the tree. A fabulous blue and black butterfly with a wing span of at least four inches was there. This lone butterfly spent the entire afternoon in the tree, seeking the sweet nectar, resting, and drinking again and again. It was still there when the sun went down. We were mesmerized by its presence. I tried to research it to find out what type of butterfly he/she was, but I never found anything. By morning, it was gone, never to return again. My mother thought it was beautiful, and my aunt who was in the garden with me, said it was an omen. Six weeks later, my aunt had passed away.

The following fall, my mother entered a nursing facility. We talked about the tree, and she smiled when I brought her a piece of bread I had made from some of Patsy's frozen peaches. After that, the peaches became fewer and fewer each year. The tree was still beautiful, but her delicate pink blooms in the spring were beginning to wane.

Mom passed away in February of last year. That spring, Patsy had just a few blossoms, and the meager crop last summer was sour and blemished. This spring, there were even less buds, that fell to the ground by the end of April. The small amount of leaves turned brown and died. In fact, Patsy appears to be dead as a door nail (they say door nails don't live long). But she's gray and barren. My heart breaks at the thought of cutting her down again. How could this happen? Well, I heard that a lot of trees are suffering now as a result of the droughts we had a few years ago. Maybe. But, I also remember my aunt's premonition. 
The Visitor

My Grandmother Poindexter always declared that her crocuses would bloom on her birthday in the second week in March. Mark my word, theyalways did. My uncle recently told me that after her passing several years ago, they never came back again – after decades of growing on the sweet little hill on 10th Street.

So, I'm sitting in my living room, gazing through the kitchen and out the door at Patsy. What shall I do about Patsy; what shall I do about me? I think I know how she feels.
Barren Patsy Today ... Not a Leaf - Nothing ...
Without that love and support and gratitude that comes from unconditional love, one cannot thrive. Yes, I gave her love, support and gratitude; but not as much as my mother did … much the same way she loved, supported and was grateful for me -- as I was for her.

I am not thriving. It's important that we continue to thrive throughout life – no matter how old or experienced we are. We need that love and support and the gratitude of someone special to fill a certain void that was not meant to be filled by friends, family or even ourselves. You know what I'm talking about.

Before my mother became ill, we would talk about my future after she left. I always said that I would leave New Castle immediately, and go somewhere warm (for my health), beautiful (for inspiration), and near the sea (for my peace of mind). She thought that was a great idea. But now that she's gone, I remain frozen in place – Afraid to leave and afraid to stay. My frustration is apparent in my artwork, and often in my writing. The loneliness that invades my spirit at times is not measurable. I fear I'll fall into a rut … well, I already have … and won't be able to climb out. My leaves are turning, and my fruit is a memory. To save myself, I must make some decisions soon.

You all know my motto: “Keep Walking!” (to your destiny). I wish I could figure that out. But, if I look a little bit closer, behind the Hosta and weeds and ancient mulch, I can see it. I noticed it this morning, and it has shaken me a bit; but not in a bad way. I see a new sucker growing … right at the base of her trunk. Patsy will keep walking, and so should I. Of course, I will share my thoughts, fears, hopes and decisions with you all – if and when I ever discover what they are.

First Published in The Courier-Times, June 26, 2016

June 16, 2016

Confession: I've Been Loving An Older Man

He has been my friend, my companion, my protector, my family, my sweet baby, and even my caregiver. Although he scares and intimidates most people who try to get close to us – well, who try to get close to me – he only means well. He's just not social, and he's too old to change now.
Although he is possessive and jealous, and quick to show his dominance to anyone he feels is a threat (that would be everyone), to me, he's loving, kind, caring and totally in tune to my moods, emotions and even physical health. We've been together for more than 10 years, and I've vowed to be there for him as long as he needs me, as he has been for me through all kinds of ups and downs. In a sense, you could say we're soul mates.
He has the most beautiful, knowing eyes and the softest hair. However, he is a bit short, and sometimes walks with a slow limp. Yet, there are times, when he's still quick on his feet, agile as the athlete he once was, and even though he now has saddle bags, he's in darn good shape to be 84 years old.
84 dog years, that is. I'm speaking of my beloved Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog), Rudy. If you follow me on Facebook, you know all about Rudy, who gave himself the title “Lord Rudolph” about three years ago. Sometimes, he's also known as His Lordship, The Grand Duke, Mayor of Hillcrest or simply King of Every Thing. To me, he's just my Rudy. People have been urging me to write a book about his life with me now that he is aging and facing new health issues more and more. I'm having difficulty writing it, so I'm sharing a bit of him with you today.
Rudy is so funny and entertaining. It's a shame he doesn't like or trust other people. When I adopted him, his vet told me it seemed Rudy suffered from fear aggression. He can be rough and tough; he is a Heeler, after all. But some things with him just won't change. For a while, I took him to a stock farm where he could work off his aggression and attitude by herding sheep. Actually, he did quite well with little to no training; it's in his blood. But I found the facility when he was maturing, and I had to retire him shortly after that. It was just too hard on his heart.
Lord Rudolph, marker painting by Stacey Torres 2015
Lately, I've been bragging about how well Rudy's been doing these last few weeks. In recent months, he has had all sorts of ailments and mysterious issues, but we've dealt with them and he always comes through. Lately, he's been doing great - until late yesterday afternoon.
We were standing in front of the house -- me pulling weeds, while he chewed on his favorite tall grass. However, when I turned to give him a treat, I noticed he was sitting on the lawn with a puzzled look o his face. His back right leg seemed to be in a cramp, and his right paw was clearly hurting him. I didn't see what happened, so I don't know if he fell, stumbled, or if it was just a cramp, spasm, or maybe even a seizure. It took him a long time to get up. After that, he seemed okay, but was limping badly and couldn't get into the car for a trip to the park. Since he already has a weakened (arthritis) back right leg, his right side wouldn't support him.
So, I'm treating him gently with heating pads and little massages -- and mindfully being vigilant. There's not much else to be done when these things happen. He's been to the vet so often lately, and that's always traumatic for him, i.e., “doggy Valium,” a muzzle and just chaotic stress. So, I limit his visits to his wellness checks and emergencies. Rudy is just like any other 84 year old man (or woman) I suppose. I'll continue to watch, nurture, love and pray for him.
This morning, my little guy appears to be a little better. His appetite is still hearty; eating like he's in training for a Sumo match, and his limp is fading more into a careful strut. He is still a trooper, still brave and proud and hilarious as ever, barking at the stove, which means “cook something!”

As so many other people who love their furry family members deal with a sweetly aging pet, we all dread the day when we ultimately must say goodbye. I've experienced this life event with a few other dogs; each one is as excruciating as the other. But each one left me with a tremendous store of happy memories and absolute love and devotion. My prayer is that Rudy remains with me in peace and comfort for a good while longer. But his happiness and quality of life are key. For now, he's just like me, ripening with rich maturity in a very special way – with aching joints that crackle, pop and snap like breakfast cereal. But we're still here – moving forward and adapting to this wonderful changing life day by day. God sent him to me, and I'm cherishing and taking good care of my gift.

Originally published in The Courier-Times, New Castle, IN, May 29, 2016

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot

The Backyard --Today's Vacation Spot
A simple garden meal in the shade. No, it's not my backyard, but it looks identical to the one I grew up with at our home in Queens. Looking for an original pic of it to post soon!

Old Fashioned Tips