Nothing says summer to me more than sunflowers — except perhaps a Sunday supper cobbled together from the garden.

We’ve had a cooler spring, so a lot of my summer vegetables are late in arriving.  Tomatoes, for instance, are still green on the vine.   But finally the zucchini and yellow squash have arrived, as have the green beans.


I sauteed some onion, garlic and mushrooms, then added the chopped zucchini, squash and snapped beans.  Then I added some pinto beans I had already cooked, along with two cans of diced tomatoes and some Italian seasoning and let it all stew.   Yum!


For dessert, I had some blackberries from the garden.


Now for another of my summer favorites: an after-dinner walk in the cool of the evening.

What’s on your plate tonight?





I’ve lived in my current house for 13 years, though some of my neighbors have been here for decades.  Take Ben, for example.  Ben grew up in the wooden 800-square-foot house around the corner.  A few years older than me, Ben recalled playing with the boys who lived in my house.  (Maybe they were the source of all those empty beer bottles in the old shed out back?)

Ben also remembered staying down the street at Grandma and Grandpa Jones’ house while his mother was at work.    The Jones’ lived in a white one-story house next to the Baptist church.  According to Ben, the Jones’ were the first blacks in the neighborhood to have a television set as well as indoor plumbing.  He spent many a summer night playing in their yard, eating dinner at their kitchen table, and watching their tv.

Grandpa Jones was still alive when I first moved here, though I never met him.  He passed away about five years ago.  Unfortunately, his house then became a haven for drug users and fell into disrepair. A once meticulously cared-for home had cracked windows and peeling paint.  The yard, always fertilized and neatly mowed, was weedy and overgrown.  Junk cars lined the driveway. I could imagine the Jones were turning over in their graves!

Luckily for the neighborhood, the new owners of the Jones family homestead did not pay the taxes, so the county swooped in and took possession.   The house was sold to the Baptist church  next door and torn down to build a parking lot.

But before it was torn down, I received permission to dig up the two rose bushes that lived near the front porch.  One, a climbing red rose, did not survive the transition.  The other, a orange-yellow tea rose, has thrived at my house.  Maybe it’s the cold winter we had or the extremely wet spring, but the bush this year is absolutely covered in blooms.

Looking at my rescued rose bush, I think about Grandma and Grandpa Jones.  I imagine the love with which the bush was first planted and the happy times their family shared in my neighborhood.  I hope to be a good caretaker for this bush, and to keep both its blooms and the memories associated with it alive for years to come.


Garden Friends

I had a few friends join me in the garden today.

The frog, pictured above, was happily hibernating in one of my “summer” rows. Luckily I didn’t hurt it when I was digging some clover into the soil.

Froggie found a new place to sleep near the newly planted squash.

Luckily for the frog, Patches the cat was settling down for an afternoon nap on top of my deer fencing!

photo courtesy of Microsoft

photo courtesy of Microsoft

When I was a little girl, I lived in a small town in New Jersey, in a big old house with a wrap-around porch.  I had two cats named Alice and Pickles, fought regularly with my two older brothers, and became friends with a girl named Cathy S.  I don’t remember much about my friendship with Cathy, except that she was supposed to be my best friend for life.

How do I remember that?  Because she told me she would be, right after she asked if I would give her some of my jelly beans.  “Pretty please?  I’ll be your best friend forever,” Cathy promised.

For awhile, we were indeed best friends.  Then, her family moved to Illinois and my family moved to Connecticut.  We didn’t have cell phones or the internet back then, so Cathy and I soon lost touch.  All I have left of our never-ending best-friendship is a photo:

Cathy and me

Cathy and me

I’m sure Cathy thought we would be friends forever, just like she promised.  It couldn’t have been just about the jelly beans, right?

Regardless of Cathy’s intentions at the time, she was doing something I’ve done too many times to count: I’ll make a promise with the best of intentions but, in all likelihood, won’t keep.   Like the promises I made in college:  “Dear God, if you help me pass this test even though I didn’t study enough, I swear I’ll never procrastinate again!”

Or the times I let the car get just a little too low on gasoline: “Please, car, get to the gas station and I’ll never let you go below a quarter tank again!”

I’m particularly bad about making promises during sporting events.  “Please, in the name of all that is right and good, let us win this game!  I’ll never ask again!”   Until the next game, that is.

I’m also bad about promising to be grateful for things I take for granted.  Like health.  Or walking free of pain.  Or electricity.

Two weeks ago, we had an ice storm.  It wasn’t the worst storm we’ve had this year – there had been more snow, and the roads had been covered with lots more ice.   But somehow this was the storm to bring down trees and power lines.    At 4:45 a.m. on a Friday morning, my power went out.

my back yard

my back yard

I woke up about half an hour later, confused.  Was it bad everywhere, or just my neighborhood?  Were the roads clear?  Did my work have a delay?   I checked my smart phone, but wasn’t able to determine much.  Turns out the majority of this area was fine; I just happened to live in an area that got the most damage.  The big cities of Raleigh and Durham were fine. Hence, no news.

So I got up, thinking I would make some coffee.   Oh… wait.   Can’t make coffee.  I’ll just make my morning smoothie.  Oh … wait.  No smoothie.   How about oatmeal.  Mm… nope, unless I want to eat it raw.

Good thing I had taken a shower the evening before!

Power crews worked tirelessly through the weekend to help us.  But there was so much damage that it took until 2:45 a.m. on Monday before my electricity was restored.    I know, because I heard the heating unit click on and the refrigerator start to make its familiar hum.  I was so excited, I got out of bed right then  and did two loads of wash!

During my time without power, I swore I would never take electricity for granted again.  But really, who was I kidding?  I was — and still am — grateful for all the creature comforts that electricity provides. But, just a mere two weeks later, when I walk into a room, I flip the light switch and automatically expect the lights to come on.  I get up in the morning and expect hot water to come out of the shower tap.  I am certainly grateful for these things, but I definitely take them for granted.

How about you?  Anything you take for granted in your life?  Any promises you make that are hard to keep?





Sunny Days and Seedlings


In contrast to last weekend’s cold, wintry weather,  this weekend was balmy and spring-like.  I took advantage of the sunny conditions and let my seedlings sit outside for the day.  They loved the sun!

Everything seems to be growing nicely.   The peppers, pictured above, are getting big enough to transplant to larger containers.


Last weekend, I moved the first flat of tomatoes to larger pots and gave them a dose of fish emulsion.  It looks like the seedlings have already doubled in size.  The second flat of tomatoes, started last weekend, are already sprouting.

I also started a flat of squash last week, and the zucchini, below, is beginning to appear.


My snow peas and sugar snaps had grown so big, I just had to transplant them.  They are now living in pots, pictured below.


Next weekend, I’ll start some green beans and eggplant.  And if I’m really brave, I’ll start the purple hull peas.

Until then, I’m hoping the rain lets up some so I can get in the garden beds to weed and dig in the cover crop so I’ll have somewhere to plant all these lovely seedlings!


Meghan’s First Snow


Meghan experienced her first “real” snow earlier this week.

Snow started falling rather quickly at my house on Wednesday afternoon.  After about an inch was on the ground, I figured we could run around and play before it got too deep.   But, when I opened the door and Meghan saw this strange white stuff coating the deck and ground, she balked.   No way she was going outside…

Eventually, I decided to just start walking away. That did it!  Determined not to be left alone, Meghan stepped outside and began exploring.

Finding her rawhide bone outside made everything better!


The next morning, however, was not so fun.  Hours of sleet and rain left an icy coating on top of the snow, making it very hard for Meghan (and me) to walk.  Eventually she figured out that by walking in my footsteps, she could keep her balance.


Since it was impossible for her to run around outside, I had to come up with indoor activities to use up her physical and mental energy.   I threw her squeaky toys down the hall for her to retrieve and we worked on some new commands.  Luckily, I had planned ahead and bought a few hula hoops and began teaching her to jump through them.   And we played a lot of her favorite game: “find me.”   I make her sit and stay on her mat, then go hide behind some doors, in the tub, or behind chairs.    As the week went on, I tried progressively harder hiding spots, but my house is small and I eventually ran out of options.

Luckily for her (and me), the sun came out yesterday and melted a lot of the snow.   Meghan was able to sit outside while I did some work transplanting seeds.


Soon we’ll be dealing with lots of mud!  Red clay paw prints everywhere…



I don’t shop at Whole Foods that often, mainly because I find getting into and out of my local store such a pain.  I hate their parking lot!  Turns out I’m not alone —  apparently other people have the same problem.

But Whole Foods does carry some items that my local co-op doesn’t, and it has, hands down, the absolute best salad bar.  So when a friend wanted to meet for lunch last week, we braved the parking lot to eat  at Whole Foods.  It was right after I paid for my ginormous salad that I noticed a sign with the following words:  “Collards are the New Kale.”


Yep — according to this Whole Foods blog.

I’ve personally been a fan of collard greens for awhile now — I did have a Southern mama, after all.  And thanks to my gardening hobby, I’ve  spent decades  growing and eating all kinds of greens, including turnips, kale, mustard, and arugula.  I even have a Japanese green whose name I’ve long forgotten that kindly reseeds itself each year.  Gotta love free food!   This particular green tastes a little like spicy spinach.

When cooking my greens, I usually just throw them in the steamer for a few minutes, then eat them plain or with a little vinegar.  I will add them to soups, stews, salads and smoothies.  And of course I’ve made kale chips.

Chips must have been on my mind when I saw that sign promoting collards, because I immediately wondered if I could make collard chips.

Yes.  Yes, I can.

Thanks to Whole Foods and inspiredRD.com, I have discovered a tasty treat!


Okay, so my collard chips aren’t the prettiest looking things.  But they do satisfy my chip urge.

Now I’m wondering if mustard greens would make good chips?  Hmm….