Thursday, December 31, 2009

Peas and Carrots

The fall peas were a bust. But the carrots! Wow. What a surprise. And they taste good too! A happy ending to this year of gardening. The variety I planted is Short 'N Sweet. They're short, roundish and, as advertised, very sweet. I just love it when success is so easy.
Our New Year tradition lives on with dinner and a movie with friends and family. North Carolina shrimp are on the menu. May your New Year be mostly laughter and smiles to carry you along the way. Night y'all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Southern Chocolate Layer Cake

Jonathan and I made this beautiful, delicious, Southern cake then invited friends over for dessert and a fire. I'd never made one as they can be bought made by women who want some extra cash at Christmas. I'm so glad we did it. Jane, a backdoor neighbor, told us that her grandmother made these cakes for her children as their birthday cake. It was before fancy store-bought birthday candles so she made a layer for every year. Perhaps that's the origin of these marvelous cakes. It's for sure they are special occassion cakes.
There are many recipes for this cake on the internet. Ours was possibly the richest version out there: cream, butter, dark chocolate. All are good. Try one and be sure to share.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Parsley,sage, rosemary and thyme

Parsley doesn't like the cold but it somehow survives it with a covering of pinestraw and mulch. It gets used all winter, like thyme, because it's there.

The very best use I've found for parsley is Lemon Parsley Viniagrette, a bright and tangy dressing.

Lemon Parsley Viniagrette

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
1/2 cup parsley leaves
Whir it with an immersion blender.

Monday, December 7, 2009

World's Smallest Pecans

We are convinced that our neighborhood was once a pecan orchard. There are very large, old trees in almost every yard. I can see them out of every window in my house. Perhaps there was once a pecan tree give-away program. Most people are too busy to pick them up and leave them but just a few minutes on three separate occassions Scott and I picked up these tiny nuggets of Southern delight.
Pecans require cross pollination so there are different nuts in every orchard. They also bear strong bi-annually. Some years we sell, some years we save all we collect. We are keeping all we gather this year. No one wants these small nuts. They are hell to crack. It must be done by hand; no taking them off to Carolina Feed and Grain for the automatic cracker as they defie modern machinery slipping through and coming out the other side whole. It takes time and patience to tease them out. It's the patience part that gets me. I am highly sensitized to this chore. It was mine for many years using every primitive device invented. My personal favorite to hate was the cast iron figure of a squirrel. The nut was placed in his jaw and the tail was the lever used for cracking. I squashed more than I cracked. There is so much oil in pecans that they become mush if pressed too hard. Combined with the bitter pith they are oh so bad. But, if one can get past the obstacles of gathering, cracking, and picking out the nuts these tiny meats are the tastiest of them all.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Sweet Potato Pudding and River Trip

We did our annual day after Thanksgiving Lumber River State Park trip. No Katie. No Hanna. No Jonathan. No Richard. No one from Richard's family. We missed them all. But. Will came with Ahsley and the originating parents of the day were there. Neil Lee, park superintendent,came by to check on our tradition. It was a beautiful fall day. We found Indian artifacts and talked with Neil about the ancient people who might have camped and hunted on the high bluff now called Princess Ann. We cooked over a fire and canoed on the river.

I'm sharing a sweet potato pudding recipe because it is the BEST.

Sweet Potato Pudding

2 cups cooked sweet potatoes, mashed
2 cups sugar
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Pour into a greased pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Greens and Ham

We've had mustard greens several times lately. Pork, greens and sweet potatoes go together like peas and carrots. Sweet potatoes are ubiquitous this time of year and I am a failed sweet tater farmer. So I buy them. It makes no sense to grow something badly when there are eaier things that do well. Mustard is a shade of green that is quite pretty in the garden.
Broccoli heads are slowly forming. Some of the collards are ready to eat except that the key weather element, frost, has not come our way yet. Southern lore has it that collards are extremely bitter before frost. I grew some broccoli rabe once that I forced myself to eat. Gack. It was one of those moments in personal history that shouldn't have happened. Scott put down his fork and watched in silence. I'm still recovering. No way I'm going to try unfrosted collards.
The lettuces are in different stages. It's fun to watch them change from tiny shoots to fully developed plants. Lettuce is the best bang for the buck in our fall garden. A $1.00 packet of seeds will surely grow $100.00 worth of lettuce. Ridiculously easy and fabulously tastey. When you grow your own lettuce, you can harvest the outside leaves as they mature and leave the plant to continue forming new leaves. Much better than just cutting off the whole head like farmers have to do. The salad bowl of America is not in California, it's in your own backyard y'all.

Parsley Lemon Vinagrette

1/4 to 1/2 cup parsley
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teapsoon dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil

Whir it all together in a blender or with a magic kitchen wand. So good.

Note: The elaborate fencing/netting is to protect the lettuces from frost and cats. There is a huge plastic sheet, not seen, that can be pulled over the bed when the temperatures fall below 40 to protect the plants. The cats are brats. The other strategy to keep them out of the garden is wheat straw. As it degrades it becomes very slimey and they hate it. Me to. It is weird.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

It is a day Americans set aside for somber reflection.

My father was 22 years old when he joined the Army Air Force. His older brothers had already enlisted. By the end of World War II my grandmother had sent all four of her boys to fight. Two were airmen, the other two infantry. All were injured and they rarely spoke the war in mixed company. Once I mustered up the courage and asked my father about the long scar that ran the length of his right arm. He described his plane crash, the hours following and the good folks who took him in on the night of his crash. He didn't crash in battle, he crashed running night flight trials over the dark skies of Mississippi with no moon and no instrumentation to guide him. The people who saved his life were negro sharecroppers who lived in a shack. He spent six months in the hospital in Mississippi.

My father never stopped loving airports and planes. When we were very young he'd take us to the observation deck of the municipal airport in Charleston, SC and let us look at the planes through his big, heavy, Army issue binoculars.
The war memorial at Lumberton Municipal Airport requires one to park and go through the terminal to the landing strip side of the terminal. It has been at the airport for as far back as my memory goes. Tom and Charlie are among those listed on the memorial. Good men who served a good cause.

When my father died I found the newspaper announcement of his transfer to Greenville, Mississippi in his bedside Bible in the New Testament book of St. Matthew. His mother had saved it. It is now folded into my childhood Bible in the same spot. It is the story of the birth of Jesus. A deeply religious woman, Myrtle Rose knelt in prayer by her bed every night before bed. I have imagined her praying for her sons all away at war and wondered at their strength and courage. The scripture she chose to have read at her funeral was from Micah 6:8, "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?"

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fall garden

We're eating lettuce after a summer without. There is enough to share with neighbors. Okra is waning and all but the green tomatoes are gone. No more peppers except for the really hot ones. We had some turnips this week. I have a young garden friend, aged four, who visits every time she comes to see her grandmother. Too sweet. She loves to harvest from my garden. She asked yesterday, "Can I pick some salad?" "I'm so glad you asked!" for young gardeners must be nutured. Pulling turnips gave us so much joy. At first the leaves broke off, then with more force the turnips popped out of the earth. We had to laugh. What a surprise! They're purple!
The cares and concerns of being an adult melt away when one is with the young.
Mustard, collards and broccoli are growing slowly. It's hard to tell what the beets are doing. The same is true of the carrots. Summer seems like a vague memory now. I froze some things and in that way we still get to enjoy the tastes of summer but soon they will be gone and then it will be all about winter. The grass has stopped growing and the leaves are falling. We've worked out an elaborate mini-greenhouse for the lettuces and hope it works. Time will tell.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The ICE bucket

Thirty one years ago I received a re-gifted ice bucket for a wedding gift. I know this because I know my former sister-in-law is a doop-dee-doo. I thought it was pretty funny then and kept the ICE bucket knowing that someday I would use that spray painted, bright brass thing for something not ice. Thirty one years to the month I pulled it from the back of cabinet where I placed it, mused peacefully about the past thirty one years and !Epiphany! I realized that I held in my hands a new, very handy, and useful compost bucket. She who laughs, lasts.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Green Tomatoes

Green as the finest emeralds. Sliced tomatoes for a Southern delicacy.

Fried Green Tomatoes

Combine on a plate
Ground cayenne or red pepper
Lightly dust/dip sliced green tomatoes and fry in a small amount of flour over medium high heat. Drain on paper towels.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Super Eggplant! I had to hold it upside-down like those pictures on the pier at the beach of people who've caught uber big fish because, well, I just had to! We pulled it out because, sadly ,it's time to move on. The clock ticks, the sun turns, and a new season is upon us.
The part of the plant you see in the picture probably weighed 30lbs and had about that many fruit on it.
Ah the joy of a beautiful Fall day in the garden!

Epicurous Roasted Eggplant Soup

3 medium tomatoes, halved
1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
1 small onion, halved
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
4 cups (or more) chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth

1 cup whipping cream (I used half and half)
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (about 3 1/2 ounces)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place tomatoes, eggplant, onion and garlic on large baking sheet. Brush vegetables with oil. Roast until vegetables are tender and brown in spots, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven. Scoop eggplant from skin into heavy large saucepan; discard skin. Add remaining roasted vegetables and thyme to same saucepan. Add 4 cups chicken stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cook until onion is very tender, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return soup to saucepan. Stir in cream. Bring to simmer, thinning with more stock, if desired. Season soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with goat cheese; serve.

The (Perfect)End

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Pick a Peck a Peppers

Scott went crazy and planted hot peppers all around the garden! Their color indicates their degree of heat. Beautiful aren't they? I am personally afraid to get near the habenero (it's the lumpy, bumpy orange one) for fear that the capsasien will jump off the plant right straight into my eyes. I admire that bad boy from a distance. If you have the courage, stop by. It's free.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

And the heat goes on, la di da duh di, la di da duh die

We're still dressing for summer down here. Labor Day means nothing in the southeastern US. Our first date for expected frost is the end of October or even early November. Heck, we go back to school before Labor Day. Why wait? It's still going to be hot,which is a good thing for the garden. Tomotoes? Still got them. Okra? Comin' on. Eggplant? Can I get a break? Please. Marigolds? Late summer is their time. My impatients are full of blossoms. 'Tis the season for...butterflies. Tomorrow I'll start a unit on caterpillars because they are all over my parsley.
Johnny Appleseed? He'll will just have to wait until October.
The picture above is of an okra flower. They are relatives of hibiscus and are very pretty looking out of my kitchen window. Most of the plants are showing signs of age-related stress, a phenomenon I am slowly coming to understand. But here is the most important thing: they are still productive,and occassionally pretty, despite being dried up and scraggly looking overall.

Tomatoes and Okra

Some okra, cut up
One onion, cut up
Some peppers, cut up
Garlic chopped (one or two cloves)
Chopped tomatoes (or one 15 oz can diced tomatoes)

Sautee the onion, peppers, garlic and okra in oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Add the tomatoes. Cover and cook over medium to low heat until softened to your liking. Very nice with polenta, known as grits in the South, y'all.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


It was a clear, crisp, blue-skyed morning. Down South it's the kind of morning that signals a shift, an unmistakable change in Earth's movement. We know that the long summer has passed and that, even though there will be more warm days, relief has come. We celebrate The Day. August is so hot, you see. But by mid-morning on That Day we were transfixed by tragedy unfolding in New York City. Appalled and speechless as first one, then a second, skyscaper filled with workers, people like us, collasped taking them to certain death. Disbelieving, we wrenched ourselves from the TV to do the day's work knowing that there would be more blood shed. War. Years later I photographed this memorial to those who died that day. It is painted tiles hanging on a chain link fence in Greenwich Village. The tiles, reportedly the work of children, are mostly hearts, doves of peace and American flags. But when I singled out the tiles and looked closely there is one, of twin towers that no longer stand, with a beautiful blue sky and a golden yellow sun reminding us of the clear September day when our world shifted and changed.

May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord shine the Light of his countenance upon you.
May the Lord be gracious unto you.
And give you Peace.

Friday, August 21, 2009


The seeds are now seedlings! We've had extreme heat and I started back to school so there were a few days where I thought maybe I'd let them sprout and die. But no! They live! We are on the road to having a spinach patch, broccoli, collards and all kinds of lettuces. Something to look forward to I'd say.

Did I forget to mention the turnips? We'll be having neeps if all goes well.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Herbs love the heat, don't get eaten by bugs and get huge by the end of summer. Here are a few from our garden. Breathe in, breathe out. Repeat. Use your imagination and hopefully somewhere in the recesses of your memory they are there.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Life is art.

Evil Spirits

Neighbor's Gate

The Cloisters, NYC

Propane Totem,CO

Hippy van, Greenich Village

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Last Rose of Summer

Our summer garden is winding down. Heat,lack of rain and age have taken their toll. It looks pretty sad but Felder Rushing,our gardening guru,warns, "A vegetable garden tends to be messier than a flower garden because it is utilitarian, not aethetic." My response, after being away for two weeks is best summarized as shocked. The googly-eyed, screaming monsters in this blue ribbon, Archuleta County Fair, quilt cover my range of emotions. Chin up old girl. There are three more seasons. Because we're Southern we grow all year so I planted broccoli seeds yesterday. Today spinach, collards and lettuces will get planted.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

I Always Wanted to See the Statue of Libery and a Rodeo

The Red Rider Rodeo!

I did finally see Lady Liberty and she is the way coolest. Just a few days ago I went to the Red Ryder County Fair in Pagosa Springs, CO. OMG. It wasn't a bronco bustin', bull ridin' rodeo. Oh, no. It was a ranch rodeo. A real rodeo. Take that. It was the real deal with real cowboys without commercial sponsors. And it was a damn good time all for the price of $3.00.

Wolf Creek

I looked at Earl and his eyes was wide...
I says, "Earl, I'm not the type to complain
But the time has come for me to explain
That if you don't apply some brake real soon, they're gonna have to pick us up with a stick and a spoon..."
("Wolf Creek Pass" written by Bill Fries and Chip Davis, sung by C.W. McCall)

Personal Press

Following an ear poppin', breathtaking, awe inspiring drive up then back down into Wolf Creek Pass an afternoon spent in San Juan National Forest rock hopping in and along Wolf Creek,Colorado on a cool July afternoon is free! Altogether it's 3,000 feet down into the pass causing me to consider that the first settlers who made it there must surely have saddly resolved that,like it or not, there was no turning back. When you gather your wits and swallow it's no different than having just taken off in a 747 except that you can see below where you'll end up if you crash. It'd make for a great obituary except for the part where I want to die in my sleep, in my bed, in my 80's having lived a full and healthy life.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Born in the USA!

What I Love About Baseball
Well, it's just all about America for cryin' out loud. There is eating and drinking, cussin' and prayin', fold-out chairs and wheelchairs, old and young, rich and poor, dirt and grass, Pepsi and hot dogs,popcorn and peanuts,anthem and flag, pop balls and line drives,pops and bunts, homeruns and ou-oot!,hysteria and silence, top and bottom, pitcher and catcher, infield and outfield, glove and bat. Baseball is a study in contrasts and all the variety in between. It's busy and bustlin'at the slow pace that only baseball can have and mighty good fun. That's what I love about baseball!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What's that?!

An attorney friend, visiting from the Deep South, came by to see my garden. Disbelieving she ask, "What's that?!" Not understanding the question behind the question I answered, "Okra. I love okra, it's really good sauteed, splashed with tamari." Blah, blah, blah, blah I babble on about the virtues of okra. She was relieved. Seems she thought it was pot. Well now that I look at it the new leaves do sort of look like it...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fast Slow Food

On your mark: Pizza dough.

Get set:
a.3 cups of flour
b.1 teaspoon salt package of yeast
d. 1 teaspoon honey
e. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
f.1 cup warm water (from the tap is fine)

Go: Combine dry ingredients in a bowl (I use a food processor). Combine wet ingredients. Press on button to mix dry ingredients and slowly add wet to dry as processor is running. Leave it on for a few minutes. Dump the dough on a cutting board, knead in enough flour to keep it from being sticky. Cut in half. One half the dough will make a pizza large enough for two people.

Freeze the other half for another day. I do three batches because why get the bowl dirty for only one batch? I wrap the dough in plastic wrap in a neat package. When I take it out to thaw I unwrap, put the dough in a greased bowl and put the wrap on top. The rest is in a million recipe books.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Sweet 100s

This is today's harvest of cherry tomatoes. I will cook them Ina Garten style in olive oil with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Less is more.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Flowers in the garden...

Flowers in the garden bring bees and butterflies. This morning there were swarms of butterflies and bees busy working the flowers. They work the vegetables as they are working the flowers which are planted all around. The outcome is lucious squashes and juicy tomotoes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kids and Kittens

Patricia loves kittens. Here she is with a new litter. She is holding Milky Way and Truffle-going with the candy theme works for her. It was great fun listening to her name and re-name kittens. Snickers, Zero, Oreo, Chips; her list went on and on. You should hear her sweet, delighted laughter when she is playing with them. OMG it was so much fun to be with a happy 4th grader! She played with them until the fireflies came out and mosquitoes chased us indoors.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Homemade Yogurt

Pictured below is my homemade yogurt with a drizzle of honey. The recipe is too simple: Heat 2 cups milk, any kind, in a pot to 180-190 degrees (it will have small bubbles and be steamy). Let cool until warm to very warm and pour into a warm jar. Stir in 1 Tablespoon yogurt with active culture (any kind you like). Put the lid on, wrap in a towel to retain heat and put in a warm place for 4 hours. DO NOT MOVE FOR 4HOURS! The recipe can be doubled/tripled/quadrupled...just be sure that the ratio of milk to yogurt is the same. Many thanks to Jonathan and the New York Times for this cool summer delight. With fresh summer fruit it is gourmet.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Outdoor Rooms

Our neighbor's daughter started the "porch party" years ago. They are great fun. Neighbors and friends gather to eat, drink and chill enjoying each other while avoiding the chore of cleaning the whole house. Summer would be unbearable without porches and shade trees. Here's a sample of porches in our neighborhood. They've announced births, engagements, hosted weddings, graduations, retirments, family reunions, a multitude of Halloween celebrations, hurricane parties and recoveries. If you have an unloved porch, doll that bad girl up and parteeeee!