Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summer Days

Summer has finally taken hold in my world and it feels glorious.  It’s sunshine; leisurely mornings; time to cook; zinnia seedlings; t-shirts, flip flops every day; warmth on my toes; green tomatoes on the vines; quiet in the afternoon; the cool of my home when I step inside out of the sunlit day; the chirp of birds in the morning; the blink of a firefly in the darkening twilight; the feel of a soft quilt on my bed; pots overflowing with flowers; the ease of day with no obligations.  Sometimes I wonder if Summer is so nice because it was so hard-earned.   Then I realize that the thing about Summer is to avoid over-thinking it and just enjoy the glory of it all.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday, June 29: Garden Update

In the last week, we enjoyed plenty of heat and rain, the two ingredients that make my garden most happy.  The plants are coming along quite nicely.  There are several tomatoes.

The latest rows of zinnia seedlings are looking good.

My shady glen project has made the area more welcoming than ever.  

I’ve a few more additions planned for the perennial garden.  Just as I make it a point to sit on the front porch for my morning cup of coffee, I plan to enjoy a daily class of iced tea back here in the afternoon shade.  The best part of a garden at this time of the summer is that each  day’s growth brings me that much closer to warm tomatoes and fresh bouquets.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Fairy Garden

I have neither a room full of dolls nor an entire house crammed with stuffed animals and, having barely dodged those fates, I was helpless when the idea of a fairy garden showed up in one of my gardening catalogs.  To say that I became quickly consumed by planning a magical fairy garden of my own is an understatement.

T and JT quietly endured the planning and organizing.  They rolled their eyes as I rambled on about my plans.  If they were concerned about the state of my mental health, they never let on.   So full steam ahead and my fairy garden is on its way.  I cleared weeds and tree branches in spot under old man tree and up against the back deck steps.  The ivy seems like a useful thing for fairies seeking privacy.

I hung the door to a secret fairy wonderland.

Then I settled a cottage here amongst the ivy.  

I planted the terra cotta pot full of pink impatiens.  

I’ve more plans in the works but I’m already quite pleased with this secret treasure in my garden.  It’s nice to have a new project for my garden daydreams.  I know a few toddlers who will find it quite charming to admire and their amusement will remind me, as it always does, to find something magical and thrilling in every day.  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Garden Lessons

The best-laid gardening plans - and boy do I make organized gardening plans - sometimes come to naught.  In fact, that’s one of the greatest appeals of gardening in my world.  It’s a lesson in patience and a reminder of all the ways that I am not in charge of the world and must make do with the cards I am dealt.  Case in point: this section of my backyard garden patch.  

I tilled it a few years back and gave a try at planting carrots back here.  There wasn’t much of a harvest.  That fall, I laid out some fertilizer and the following spring I planted zinnias in this patch.  I had some flowers but not as many as I would have liked.  Again, I concluded that the soil was poor.  That fall, I tried a deeper tilling and discovered that the area has fill dirt and layer of concrete just about a foot below the fill.  That’s great soil for growing weeds and grass but no good for carrots or zinnias.  At first, I thought that the patch would simply lay fallow this summer.  

Then I got a new plan.  

I’ve always thought it would be nice to sit out here and admire the garden in the late afternoon shade.  Now I can do just that.  Presenting my backyard garden shady glen.

Next to the chairs is the section of the garden I’ve devoted to perennial plants: hostas, rosebushes, a hydrangea, and a patch of gladiola bulbs.  It awaits a layer of mulch, a task for next week, when I plan to take a few days off.  The rest is my annual garden with tomatoes, cukes, herbs, rows of zinnias, and the annual dahlia bulbs.

It’s a peaceful refuge back here amongst the thick green foliage of my fruit trees and my garden.  I can admire the plants I’ve cultivated.   It’s a comfy spot for enjoying a cold glass of iced tea, reading a good book and enjoying an afternoon doze.  If I play my cards right, I might even see the mama bunny who lives with her babies under the hedge.  It’s summer and there is time enough to watch my flowers grow and my tomatoes ripen.  That’s happy.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Food Friday: Comfort Food

Perhaps its because of my California origins that I find homemade Mexican food to be the best sort of comfort food.  And at the very top of the comfort hierarchy is the corn tortilla.  These were fried into homemade tortilla chips and served with a heaping bowl of guacamole.


Thursday, June 25, 2015


I am due for some time off and intend to take a few days on either side of July 4.  In preparation for what I am treating as my festival of rest and relaxation, I intend to get some tips from Tiger.

I think that he could teach me a thing or two on the art of letting go and enjoying a summer nap.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

In Praise of Hostas

My love of hosta plants has been well-documented at this website on many previous occasions.  They first pop forth from the soil when April's days grow longer.  Come June, the row of hostas along my backyard garage is at its verdant peak.

These plants are my seasonal touchstone and I love them more each year that they grace my garden.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My Daily Good Cheer

This cheerful green polka-dotted pot of purple impatiens sits on my front porch and makes me smile every day.

That’s happy!

Monday, June 22, 2015

June 23 Weekly Garden Update

I intended for last week’s garden update to show off the freshly weeded and then mulched garden.  But there was no garden update last week because the week was surprisingly busy, especially considering that I am supposed to be enjoying the relaxation that is summer.  At the start of last week, the garden looked like this:

Last weekend I declared that garden mulching season had arrived.   Before the mulch can be laid, the garden must be weeded one more time, so that was the chore for last week.  The weeding was completed on Wednesday and that afternoon, JT helped me load up the mulch and delivered the bags to the back yard. Then work demands and rain descended.  So the mulch sat on the lawn, forlorn and undistributed.  When I looked at the garden I swore that I could see all the weeds growing back.

I made another run at the weeds on Sunday.  Then I put down the newspapers and mulch that is my idiot-proof method of water-saving weed control.   Now things look ordered and lovely and just the way I like my garden to be.

Tomatoes and dahlias have been caged and now have support for the growing still-to-come.  

There is plenty of room for the new extra-long hose pipe and worn sprinkler to be moved around to water without disturbing the plants.

There is a spot raked and ready for me to plant the last of my zinnia beds.  There will be some abundant cut flower bouquets at my house later this summer.

I unearthed my turtle garden marker, a metal piece picked up at an antique shop in Cape Cod a few years back.

The 2016 garden is a little smaller than in previous years but no less lovely.  Now that the mulch is set down, my daily walk to the garden will be less a reminder of chores to be completed and instead a chance to admire the fruits and flowers of hard work.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Real Life Conversations with T: 2016 Election edition

The backstory:  After a busy week of moving and starting a new job, T was a bit out-of-date on the news so she was startled to see a newspaper with the headline that Donald Trump was running for office.

Me:  He proposes to re-brand America.  It’s really a selfless act on his part to save the nation from itself. 

T:  Fine.  He gets the presidency and we get that he finally does something about his hair.

This might be a pretty good exchange, America.  Don’t rule it out.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Time’s Witness

To start my summer, I took up a book that I have always loved but hadn’t read in quite some time, Time’s Witness by Michael Malone.  The book is a story of race and politics in the South presented as mystery of sorts with a well-drawn assortment of thoughtful characters.  First published in 1989, like To Kill a Mockingbird, it remains timely today.  And, given the horrifying events in Charleston this week, much more timely than I would like it to be.

The novel is not only thoughtful in its reflections about race and police; it’s timely in its reflections about the human condition with some ideas worth keeping in mind.  To that end, I’ve collected a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

“….I grew up deciding the world was nothing but a sad, dangerous junk pile heaped with shabby geegaws, the bullies who peddled the, and the broken-up human beings who worked the line.  Some good people came along and they softened my opinion.  So I’m open to any evidence they can show me that God’s not asleep at the wheel, barreling blind down the highway with all us dumb scared creatures screaming in the back seat.” - Cuddy Mangum

“Our views on crime and punishment take different etymological routes: he believes in prisons, I believe in penitentiaries.  What he lives for is capital crime convicting, big ones, and lots of them.  Like I say, what I am after is as much peace, with as little injustice, as this sad greedy race of creatures can be cajoled, trained, or bullied into tolerating.” - Cuddy Mangum

And the quote that I keep coming back to in the wake of the unbearable violence in Charleston:

“Guns are cheap, brains are rare.” - Cuddy Mangum

That, of course, sums up the week’s events more succinctly than I can.  I am mystified that we allow this kind of senseless violence to continue.  I believe in freedom as much as the next person; certainly as much as the founding fathers.  But the guns we have floating around this nation are killing us.  Literally.  It’s time to take action.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sign of the Apocalypse

Several disturbing events were in the news yesterday, all of them related to one of our best national embarrassments: Donald Trump.  Trump announced his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination.  That alone is cause for alarm.   His primary qualification of the office seems to be his unique ability to get government financing and bailouts for his many ridiculous business ventures.  In his announcement Trump pledged, “We need somebody that can take the brand of the United States and make it great again.”

So, we are no longer a nation guided by principles such as freedom and political quality.  Screw that pesky nonsense and the constitution it rode in on.  In Donald Trump’s America, we’re a brand in need of renewal.   The end is nigh, people, and you can’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Real Life Conversations with JT: Hip Hop edition

The backstory: JT and I were listening to public radio when an interview with Tom Chapin, who has recorded an anti-cracking record, came on the radio.  Apparently, the album includes a hip-hop anti-fracking song.  This, JT could not let go.

JT:  Sure, mate.  I can hear it now: “Fuck fracking and fuck that bitch.”

Me:  I should advise you to watch your language, but hey, now I can blame hip hop for your vocabulary.

Someone hasn't been fooled by the mainstream media.

Monday, June 15, 2015

I Call Bullshit

Lindsay Graham entered the 2016 Presidential Circus a few weeks ago; later today,  Jeb Bush will make his official entrance. Every time a new Republican candidate enters the presidential race  —— and that seems to be about every five to seven days —— they manage to claim that, “The stakes are bigger than they have ever been before.”  I try to make allowance for the fact that campaigns always involve over-blown rhetorical claims but given all the racist and ridiculous invective the GOP has spewed since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, I have had about enough.  Sassafras Mama calls bullshit, y’all.

I suppose it’s the history teacher in me and it certainly is the long-standing observer of politics that I am, but seriously, this “stakes are bigger” claim is ridiculous.   Worse than that, the “stakes” that the GOP is worried about are not the right stakes.  I’ll get to that shortly.  We’ve had plenty of presidential races at very significant points in American history  and so I find this “the stakes are bigger than ever” claim to be overblown.  All elections are important and 2016 is no exception to that rule.  But it’s not bigger than 1968’s election in the midst of the Vietnam War (and, golly, we screwed up that choice).   2016 can’t possibly be as important as the 1932 election held after the Great Depression took hold.  Does 2016 outdistance the 1916  election that occurred in the midst of WWI?  Surely it doesn’t bear the importance of the 1864 election in the midst of the Civil War?  The fact is that all elections are significant but very few involve stakes so great that our nation will collapse. 

If 2016 is important, and like all election years, it certainly is, that’s because we need to have some real conversations about race in this nation.  We need to recognize that income inequality, student loan debt, and childhood poverty are unbelievably high in this, the wealthiest nation in the world.  We need to have some tough conversations about climate change.  We need to consider the fact that women, especially poor women,  are not permitted control of their bodies in an increasingly wider swath of this nation.  These are significant issues with real consequences for all of us.  But the Republicans who are so worried about the stakes in 2016 don’t give a damn about these issues.  They are instead wrapped up in  conversations about dismantling basic health care for poor Americans, ensuring that we all have a gun, and lowering taxes for the rich.  You’ll pardon me for concluding that those stakes don’t matter a whit.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The View from Here

Last week, I put out my Summer flag and changed the tablecloth on my cast iron table to happy red polka dots.

This morning, I sat outside on the front porch, reading, writing and generally enjoying the fact that relaxing Summer days have arrived. The double begonia hanging baskets I received for Mother's Day are abundant and so cheerful; they may very well be my most favorite baskets ever.

Mornings on the porch have become one of the best things about my Summer.  There's really nothing quite like chirping birds to go with a fresh mug of coffee.  

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10: Weekly Garden Update

My garden is looking a little raggedy from a distance, but that's to be expected at this early time in the growing season.

Viewed up close, there is plenty of progress to be seen.  The zinnia rows are coming along nicely and will take off when the waterweed is removed.

There are tomato blooms and one tomato has set on.

The dahlia bulbs are shooting forth with green stems that grow quickly.  

At this point, it’s time to cage my dahlias, weed, and set out the mulch.  All of these garden chores are planned for next week.  That’s happy!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015


A few weeks ago, the rhododendrons that line my front steps were in brilliant bloom, a lavish display of floral finery that I found cheerful as we rushed pell mell through the last weeks of the school year.

Middle School closing was last Friday; graduation for the Upper School was Sunday.  As of today, teacher grades and comments (including my own) have been submitted.  We had our last faculty meeting of the year this morning.  I know that the relaxed pace of summer is in my sight but right now I am spent.  I feel like the rhododendrons look this week, a bit overblown at all that has occurred and now waiting for the next season to take hold.

Soon enough, I’ll finish my last task of this school year, editing teacher comments so that we can send out report cards.  Then I’ll clean up my office and tidy my desk, readying my list of summer work, projects that I am truly looking forward to working on.  I’ll also make a complete conversion to the relaxed schedule of summer days; I’ll take some days off to enjoy unscheduled time. That’s just around the corner and until then, I’ll let my garden remind me to be patient.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Bird Nest

For a little while in May, a neighborhood robin made her home in the branches of a bush in my front yard.  Her nest was secluded from the wind and rain, easily viewed from the front porch, and mama robin used it to hatch up some chirping baby birds.

It was a lovely addition to the Spring finery.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

June 2: Weekly Garden Update

Once it’s planted,  I take a walk through my garden nearly every day.  This year, I’ve decided to make a picture very Monday so that I can look back and see the progress as it unfolds.  Right now, things are a bit of a mess as the newly planted vegetables, herbs, and flowers take root.

I like to weed a couple of rounds before I set down the mulch I use for weed control and water management so the mess is just part of the process.  Though it looks chaotic, there are happy developments in the soil.  The zinnia seedlings are a promising collection amongst last year’s mulch remnants.  They remind me that there are summer bouquets headed my way.

Week by week, my growing plants will take stronger hold and I will care for them and patiently await the garden rewards to come.

Monday, June 01, 2015

June 1: Peach Tree

The month of May brought plenty of blooms and green to my backyard.  The blossoms on the fruit trees were particularly lovely.

As the month wore on, despite the lack of rain, my peach tree leafed out.

The delicate pink blossoms grew into the start of fuzzy-skinned peaches.

There was heavy rain last night and more is expected this week.  My garden and I will be glad to have it.  The month of June always sees plenty of growth in the garden, as the leaves expand and Summer’s heat arrives.  In just a few days, the school year will be over and I’ll have more time to enjoy the outdoors and all the lovely things in my backyard. That’s just peachy!