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.

Venison-Sausage Stuffed Zucchini

So, I just had to try this sausage stuffed zucchini boat recipe this evening. Only, I made some slight adjustments to the recipe. For those that like venison, then this recipe is for you. We love venison at our house, and a big thanks to my Hubby for keeping our freezer well stalked. Where this recipe calls for 8 ounces of hot Italian sausage, I substituted it with venison. The combination of the sweet Italian sausage and venison gives it a wonderful flavor. I actually make the most delicious meatballs combining sweet Italian sausage and venison. I will have to share that recipe one of these days. The other modifications I made involved the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Instead of cooking the chopped tomatoes with the stuffing mix, I placed them on top of the stuffed zucchini followed by slivers of fresh mozzarella cheese instead of shredded mozzarella.  I followed the rest of the recipe, and the results were mouth-watering. The stuffed zucchini is a meal all by itself. However, I added some roasted red skin potatoes and onions from the garden and salad to make this a very satisfying meal.

stuffed zucchini

Descent Into Darkness

dark and twisted, tangled mood

blackness seeps, creeps,

comes on slowly

left to stew

like blood-soaked gauze over an open wound

sanguine humor of shadow and fog

shades the light

shrouds the rod

divining vein deep within

seeks to hide and disguise

empty smiles and tired eyes

through the crevice

and cellar door

sinking further toward the core

a swirling, twirling, vacillating vortex,

static, erratic, distorted digits reaching deeper still

where knotted roots explore

and vital forces play

a duel of sorts

whether life or death will stay

a quiet place, dark and gloomy

holds that special space

its numbing vacuum insulates

the fragile heart embalmed

~ C.M. Crowley

Daily Prompt: Darkness

Harvesting Lettuce Seed

Well, I finally got around to harvesting the lettuce seed from the Romaine lettuce blooms I had cut and left to dry. For anyone wanting to attempt to save seeds from your lettuce, as I have mentioned in my previous post about saving seeds, you must let the plants bolt. The lettuce blooms will eventually die and turn to a white fuzz much like a dandelion.

It can then be cut and left to dry out or mulched back into the ground as some gardeners do, allowing it to self-sow.  I found harvesting the seeds to be quite easy, but very messy as the white fluff goes everywhere. All I had to do was run my fingers through the dried out blooms and the seeds dropped, but so did the fluff. And, I found it difficult to separate the fluff from the seed. I even tried an old mesh strainer which actually helped cut down on the fuzzy stuff, but some of it still got through into the container. Lettuce seed 2

I am storing the seed in paper packets in a storage container kept in a cool dark space in the back hall.  Anyhow, I now have a good supply of lettuce seed, which if I need next season, I can use. I tossed the leftover stems back out into the garden so it will self-sow. I am looking forward to seeing how many lettuce plants appear in fall, and I have plenty of seed for future planting and for sharing.

Writing is Like an Onion

As Forest Gump once said: “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, I say life is like an onion. There’s multiple layers and dimensions to this dynamic world we live in. When we’re brave enough to step out of our comfort zone and venture out to experience each layer life exposes, that is where transformation begins.

People for instance, show us different sides of themselves. Some let all their layers hang out for all to dissect while others won’t let you get past their tough papery outer skin. Still some people let you taste just beyond that strong outer exterior just enough to experience their flavor, interesting enough to want to bite deeper, experience more.

And this is true with any endeavor. Take writing for instance, whether one is an excellent writer with natural talent or one struggles to put two words together or hates writing all together; doesn’t matter if you like writing or not, we all have to do it at one time or another whether in school, on the job, expressing ourselves in writing is a part of life. It’s when you sit down with pen and pad in hand or at the keyboard, deciding what to communicate can be a tedious process. But, drawing the reader’s attention is key to getting your message across.

I teach my students that good writing is a process. We’ve all learned the stages: pre-write, draft, edit, revise, and publish.  Maybe that’s why they groan. Because it can be tedious, trying to figure out just the right word combinations to string a sentence, and how they should be organized to form a comprehensive paragraph. It’s layers, if you will, from a single word to the finished product: 500 word essay.

One way I taught students about writing an essay, I called it the hamburger method. After all, what we know as a hamburger is basically a sandwich with layers of yummy goodness: top bun, condiments, lettuce, tomato, onions, hamburger meat, and bottom bun. Without the bun holding it all together, it would be a rather messy burger to pick up and eat with your hands.  Same thing applies to writing an essay. The top and bottom bun represent the opening and closing paragraphs. The lettuce, tomato, onions slices, cheese, hamburger patty all represents the body paragraphs, the layers if you will, that create that hamburger sandwich. Add the condiments: ketchup, mustard, mayo, salt, pepper, relish, special sauce etc., these represent the style, flair, literary devices — descriptiveness of your writing.

Good writers know all this, and they are the ones who play with words. It is why we call it poetry and prose. These writers encourage readers to read between the lines, dissect the layers of meaning with their metaphors and similes and use of techniques like personification, allusion, characterization, rhythm, imagery, dialogue, foreshadowing, plot, irony, just to name a few. These techniques draw the reader in and allows the reader to engage with the work on an intimate level, connecting with something or many things in the piece.  These writer’s know the rules and know how to break the rules in order to make a piece remarkable. They hit a nerve or tap into the pulse of a cultural norm, or counter-cultural idea. And we either love them or hate them. After all, art is subjective, and writing is an art.

Art like life is a process whether creating it, analyzing it, or just admiring it. That saying, “art imitates life” is true, for life is the fodder that feeds the artist’s desire to create. But, life imitates art as well. Both involve processes, like peeling an onion, building a house, or writing an essay; there is a dynamic at work that is in constant flux between construction and deconstruction. As we open ourselves up to the unfolding layers of life, we open ourselves to new experiences, opportunities, or inspirations that not only add to the artist’s repertoire but also another layer to who we are, and who we may or may not become.

Daily Prompt: Layers

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

 

A Good Mosquito is a Dead Mosquito

Let’s face it, I see nothing remotely positive about mosquitoes. Why they exist is beyond me. I hate them as much as they love me. However, most summers around these parts are hot and dry with very few of those bothersome creatures to torture me. I can get by on my homemade repellant, using a few essential oils (eucalyptus, lavender, citronella, and lemongrass) mixed with coconut oil, but not this year. With all the humidity we’ve been having, the mosquitoes are out in full force! It doesn’t matter what time of day I’m working in the garden, those blood-sucking spawn of Satan seem to lie in wait ready to attack. I had to breakdown and purchase a DEET repellant which I’m really not a fan of, but I see no other choice. Mosquito bites are sheer misery, and I cannot take it anymore.  And, what about treating those bites?  I’ve tried various ways to soothe the itch: baking soda paste, lidocaine crème, aloe vera gel, Vicks vapor rub, vinegar, essential oils. The list goes on. That is until I remembered about a jar of calcium bentonite clay facial powder I tried last year, Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay.

Bentonite Clay

It is powerful stuff when mixed with apple cider vinegar. So powerful, I only used it once because the pulsating warmth I felt was a bit too much on the face. However, I thought maybe it will help my irritating bug bites. Sure enough, worked like a charm. I literally slathered the mixture (apple cider vinegar and clay powder according to directions) all over my arms and legs.

It was a little messy, and I couldn’t sit down anywhere for a bit, but thankfully it dries rather quickly. I waited for about 15 minutes tops then showered it off. Let me tell you, the relief is immediate.  I have not had to scratch a single bite. I highly recommend this healing clay. It’s amazing stuff!