Summer’s End

Wow, where did the summer go? My intention was to focus on writing weekly. Unfortunately, travels and family reunions kept me away from the computer. And now school is about to be back in session. For me, summer always means family because it’s the only time I get to see my extended family who live on the east coast. That also means I look forward to enjoying cooler weather. However, I will say in the last few years, the hot temps seemed to follow me to the east coast. But, I will not complain because we had perfect beach weather the whole time. As for this post, I will devote it to some of the lovely plants I had the pleasure of viewing and/or partaking while at the coast.

One of my favorite plants of summer is the rosa rugosa. To me rosa rugosa and the seashore and sand dunes go hand in hand.

We took a wonderful trip to the Maine coast and Portland Head Lighthouse. A fascinating phenomenon are the cairns that people erected along the shore near the lighthouse.

The hydrangea were absolutely gorgeous. And, we enjoyed fresh blueberries picked right from the backyard.  Of course, you cannot go to Maine without eating lobster.

I am looking forward to cooler weather and more writing, more gardening.

Advertisements

Precious Buddy

Sometimes I think pets come into our lives for a reason. Like guardian angels, they arrive, give unconditional love, sense things happening with us, protect us, and genuinely become so much a part of our lives that it is hard to remember what life was like before they arrived, or for that matter, life without them. This I pondered just the other night as I worried about my not so spunky dog. She came into our lives not much different than most of our family pets. I used to joke that my house sits on a space-time continuum where all stray dogs and cats come to rest. Of course, my children always wanted to keep every single one. Luckily for me as well as the lost, most were happily reunited with their rightful owners. But, on that rare occasion the posted signs and knocking on doors led nowhere, my kids’ anticipation grew, hoping to adopt another member to our family. At one time we had two dogs, three cats, a hamster, two land crabs, and a couple of goldfish. We’ve had more cats come and go. My standard response when we had to put one down or its life came to an untimely end, “just wait, in a week or two another one will show up on our porch,” and sure enough like clockwork, another stray would appear.

Years have passed and so have most of those beloved pets. Our faithful family dog of seventeen years passed two years ago, representing an end of an era. My children now grown and have lives of their own. His death was hard on the kids and twice as hard on me as I cared for this blind and deaf bear-like lab husky mixed mutt while he meandered through his old age. His legs slow and unsteady, endless circling in order to sit on the wood floor only to have his paws slip and slide trying to get comfortable or get up. Stiff sore hips, walking into doors, tripping over his front paw on daily walks, that final year, I knew it would be his last. It wasn’t that he was sick or in continual pain. He still loved his daily walks; loved his dinner bones; loved to sit at my feet and get a belly rub. He still bathed us in kisses, and his tail always wagged in approval. I just sensed him winding down. The clock was ticking.  Seventeen years for a dog is a long time, and he had a good life. He came to us a lost puppy, and we took him into our hearts and home with open arms.

And so it was another lost soul made her way into our lives just 6 months before our beloved Bear-Bear passed. At the time he was the longest and the last of a long list of the family pets. My husband and I spoke many times that after Bear is gone, no more pets. That is until this precious little thing caught my eye. She was darting out into a busy thoroughfare. Break lights lit up. Cars screeched to a halt or swerved to miss this clueless thing spastically running in the road. I pulled over, got out of my car, and yelled to the dog, clapping my hands to get her attention. She bolted to where I stood, tail wagging, excited, jumping up on my legs. I bent down to pet her. No collar on her, but she was clean and healthy-looking, friendly as can be. Someone surely missed this sweetie pie. So, I got her to follow me door to door along the road, as I tried to find her home. No luck at all, so I walked back to my car, opened the door, she hopped right in like she was ready to go for a ride. I brought her home.

It was apparent from the start that she and Bear would be best buddies. My husband’s first words were, “don’t get any ideas. We don’t need another dog.” Of course, I knew someone had to be missing her, so I started right away on my search by posting her picture on a local lost and found website. Then I printed pictures to place around the neighborhood, corner store, and gas station. Finally, with no response, I took her to our vet to get her checked out and make sure she wasn’t chipped, and she was not. Weeks went by and not one phone call. Each day that passed our hearts grew fonder of this precious little dog, especially Bear. I had not seen him that spirited and jovial in several years. Even though he was blind and his hind legs a little wobbly, he and this young gingersnap frolicked in the backyard. It was a comical sight. She ran circles around Bear often knocking him off his balance and down he went, rolling around on the ground. She playfully yipping on top of him. He’d finally get back to his feet only to go down again. Both would bolt through the door happy and wore out, settle down and nap beside each other. I was amazed at the vigor the old dog mustered those last months of his life. I totally forgot that nagging sense that this year might be his last.

Bear passed one spring morning, having a stroke. It was traumatic for me to see and deal with alone. Our Precious as she came to be named let out a strange cry that alerted me to Bear’s situation. Needless to say, I was in shock—a mess really. We had to put him down. I came home from the vet clinic and hugged little Precious and cried all day long. She never left my side. Strange how dogs sense our moods, our emotions. She was probably just as sad. Since that day, it is obvious Precious is a mama’s girl. Strange for me to have a shadow. Wherever I go, she is at me feet or by my side. She even sleeps on the bed at my feet, often trying to creep up between my husband and me.

A couple of days ago, I noticed Precious lying around a lot, more than usual, and she had difficulty jumping on the couch and would not even jump up on the bed. When I tried to help her on the couch, she let out a yelp. It seemed her hip or lower back area gave her discomfort. I made an appointment to see the vet. All the while, things ran in my head: she’s too young to have arthritis or hip dysplasia. What if she has a tumor? My mind wandered, fearing the worst. This little cutie has become a loyal and loving family member.  I sometimes look at her human-like facial expressions and ask, “Were you a little girl in another life? Or “Are you an angel sent down from above taking the form of a dog to watch over us? Or “are you an alien shape-shifter, collecting information about human life?”  Whatever the case may be, it has been two years, but seems so long ago the day she brightened our home with her spunk and kisses, and I couldn’t imagine life without her. And thankfully, the doctor thinks she either strained herself or may possibly have disc disease. I’m hoping it’s just a strain. Rest and relaxation and a little anti-inflammatory medication is her course of treatment at the moment. She seems to be making a full recovery. Only time will tell if this will be a chronic issue, but at least she is otherwise healthy and happy and will continue to our Precious.Precious

 

Summer Ramblings

I love summer thunderstorms. Yesterday’s heat spurred storms with plenty of much needed rain. I enjoyed watching it blow through from the comfort of my front porch. Porch

Although the cool front that followed was short lived, the flowers seemed to revel in the sweet summer rains and cool moist air.

plantsIMG_6736

Today, I spied a lovely toadstool clinging to a wooden planter. Its elegant detail reminds me of a lady’s parasol.

toadstool 2

Vegetarian Tuesday

So, it’s Tuesday, but not just any Tuesday. While I am not a vegetarian, I sometimes think I could be as much as I love eating fresh vegetables and enjoy many vegetarian dishes. However, my love of venison, fish, and seafood of all kinds runs deep, especially when the Hubby is an avid hunter and fisherman. He keeps our freezer well stocked with venison, bass, crappie, and catfish. He truly is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. But, once in a while, he will venture out of his meat and taters comfort zone and eat my vegetarian dishes. Tonight was one of those nights he lovingly nicknamed “Vegetarian Tuesday.” I’ve learned that if I make a vegetarian dish hearty enough, I get two thumbs up from him. Rice and beans is a pretty filling meal. My version is quick and easy. Add fresh veggies from the garden, and you have a feast for a king. What makes this dish so easy is that I use organic canned beans. And, I keep a good stock of brown and white rice in the freezer. I like to mix the two on occasion, particularly since I like brown rice and the Hubby likes white rice. Mix the two, and it’s quite a tasty combo. To start this delicious dish, cook rice according to package directions. Now, canned beans by themselves are okay, but my goal is to capture the taste buds as well as fill the belly. Before cooking the beans, sauté ¼ cup chopped onions and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil. Then, add beans to the sautéed onions and garlic. To add more flavor, I used one can of organic pinto beans and one can organic baked beans. Of course, the meal is not complete without some steamed leafy greens and roasted garden goodies to make it hearty and satisfying, not to mention, packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals. And bests of all, no complaints from the Hubby.

sautecan beansbeans

Ingredients:

2 cans beans (any kind)

¼ cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic chopped

Olive oil to sauté onions and garlic

Roasted Veggies:

6-8 small red skin potatoes sliced in half

1 large onion or 2 small onions quartered

4-5 cloves garlic slivered

4 large carrots sliced

3/4-1  cup snow peas

3-4 beets sliced

4 banana peppers sliced in strips

2 large tomatoes quartered (or handful of cherry tomatoes whole or sliced in half)

Place vegetables in pan lined with tinfoil.

Drizzle vegetables generously with olive oil

Sprinkle with a bunch of Fresh herbs chopped (I used fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil and parsley)

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all vegetables so oil and herbs  evenly coat veggies. Cover with tinfoil.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-45 minutes

Roasted done

 

Steam a handful of Swiss chard and beet greens until wilted

Serve with salt, pepper, and a splash of Balsamic vinegar.

greens

dinner

 

 

 

Garden Update

Today is the summer solstice, and it certainly feels that summer is upon us in the southwest. That means many of my cold weather plants are winding down. I’ve bid adieu to my lettuce and most of the kale, and the snow peas seem to be wrapping things up.  At the same time, the tomatoes are gearing up as are the green beans, cucumbers, yellow squash, cantaloupe and watermelon. I just have to mention that the monster tomato volunteer in the cantaloupe patch is covered  in grape-like green tomatoes. I surmise this volunteer is a grape tomato plant while the other volunteers have yet to produce. And, this is the first year to plant corn, and today I spied a baby ear. So far, the summer veggies are on their way to a bountiful future.

“Earth Laughs in Flowers”

“Earth laughs in flowers” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I do believe Emerson is right, for the garden brings a smile to my lips this day in response to their robust laughter. I just had to share some of the gorgeous pops of color emerging among and around the vegetable beds. Happy companions indeed!

Natural Goodness

In keeping with eating light and healthy now that the warm weather has arrived, I happened upon a recipe for homemade muesli. It makes for a perfect breakfast or satisfying snack. What is muesli? Well it is a mixture of nuts, seeds, fruits, berries and oats. It was originally created by a Swiss-German doctor, Maximilian Bircher-Brenner, who believed people could prevent disease by eating raw foods and daily exercise. I happened upon a recipe at Bon Appetit. While this recipe uses dried fruits, my version uses fresh berries from the garden since my strawberries and blackberries are ripe for the picking. There are many different recipies for meusli on the Internet, the combination of raw nuts and fruit are endless. It can be poured over yogurt, added as a topping for pancakes or waffles, or eaten alone as a cereal, just add milk. But, I enjoy eating it dry. This morning’s version did not include oats simply because I was out of oatmeal. Every mouthful was a crunchy explosion of sweet and tangy goodness.

meusli
homemade meusli

Ingredients:

Handful of the following:

Walnuts

Almond slivers

Sunflower seeds (I like lightly salted)

Blackberries

Strawberries (sliced)

Blueberries

1 ripe banana (sliced)

Directions: place sliced bananas at bottom of bowl, top with nuts, then add berries. Now, all that’s left to do is enjoy the natural goodness.