Friday, December 20, 2013

Merry Christmas Family and Friends

A Merry and Blessed Christmas to our family and friends!
Although this is a joyous season, we bring you a wonderful bluesy song from our son.
Santa's Wearin' Blue This Year, by George Johnson, featuring The Jordanaires. 
This song can be downloaded from iTunes for only .99 cents.

Last minute Christmas idea? George's current album, Still Pissed At Yoko is only $9.03 to download, and folks love his t-shirt and cap.
By the way, Victoria Jackson from Saturday Night Live, loves George's creative work.
His first album, George Johnson featuring The Jordanaires and The Memphis Horns can be downloaded, or purchase a hard copy from

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Gifts of Snow and Ice

An unexpected ten inches of snow, and 
Saturday evening's sunset had the garden aglow.


  -10 degrees early this morning_the 2nd coldest night ever recorded in our city. 
Despite frozen water lines, the gifts of snow and ice


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ginkgo biloba_ a Performance

The beauty of the Ginkgo biloba, one of the oldest living tree species_ a living fossil_ is the light it offers in our fall garden.

Extraordinary behavior as nearly all the leaves fall within the same period, a final performance orchestrated_ a golden carpet lay at his feet.

29 Oct _ early morning

8 Nov_ a cloudy day

10 Nov 2013

23 Nov 2013

One caught hanging about

and a waning Beaver moon

Monday, November 18, 2013

Custom Earrings

Shopping for Christmas gifts is not a part of our routine, but I was thinking about my new earrings and that it would be a nice gift for someone who might be looking for ideas this time of year.

I don't wear much jewelry_ one reason being an allergy to certain metals. But then I became acquainted with a lovely young woman, the very talented Jenni who owns CascadiaBeads. 

She carefully handcrafts each order to ones specification and from beautiful Czech glass beads in various colors, shapes and sizes. Go to her site and see what might be of interest.

Dangle sterling silver earrings with a favorite color_ jade.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mother

When mother was eight years old, her father died of lobar pneumonia, related to the coal mines in which he labored. By the time she was in the seventh grade, it was clear that continuing education was not to be. One of her older brothers was able to finish high school, but all the siblings would share in the work effort of helping this family survive. These were times during the Great Depression that most folks will never understand and hopefully ever experience.

My mother was taken from us 12 years ago, but vivid in my mind is her gentle smile, those loving eyes, and warm embrace. For as long as I can remember she worked, nearly each day of her life and at whatever task in order to care for our family. She knew much struggle and hardship, loneliness and pain, but she always seemed to muster up the strength, courage and perseverance to get through it and do what needed to be done. She did the best she could. We had little, but she gave us everything:

How you loved to laugh! and such a beautiful smile it was.
An incredibly strong woman, but kind and gentle, a heart so big,
unselfish in every way;

You taught us honesty, responsibility and integrity.
Keep your word, buy only what you can afford, and always pay your bills.
You demonstrated cleanliness and the importance of caring for the little we had;
a work ethic without complaint; sense of humor.
We learned to be independent and you allowed us to find our way.
Unwavering and unconditional was your love, no matter what.

I miss the singing, laughter, tears, your embrace.
How we danced together!

So clearly I see your beautiful face and feel your presence, your magic.  
Now you are at peace. I weep.
With all my love

"When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. "
~ Kahlil Gibran

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Reason to Make French Fries_ Spicy Ketchup

We are not consumers of large amounts of ketchup, but with heirloom tomato season at an end, making homemade ketchup seemed a fun idea. And since we are proponents of wanting to know what is in "and other ingredients" when you look at store bought items, it was even more compelling to give it a go.

What comes to mind when thinking of ketchup? French fries of course. Although this is another item we seldom eat, an excuse to have homemade pommes frites with spicy ketchup had us feeling warm and giggly.

Spicy Heirloom Tomato Ketchup from Diana's kitchen
(yield: 11 half pints)

8 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 large celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 to 2 inch piece of ginger, peeled, chopped (taste dependent)
5 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 TB coriander seed
5 whole cloves
5 allspice berries
5 black peppercorns
1” piece cinnamon stick
3 bay leaves
2 large handfuls fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1 TB kosher or sea salt

1 large lemon, juiced
1/3 cup brown sugar
½ cup red wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven add the oil and heat to medium. Add onions, celery, carrots and a pinch of salt and pepper; sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and cayenne, and sauté a few minutes more. Place the spices (coriander, clove, allspice berries, peppercorn, cinnamon) in a small cloth (cheesecloth) bag_ that is tied and easily removed after cooking. Add the tomatoes, bag of spices, bay leaf, basil, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then simmer until it is reduced by at least a third_ approximately 1 to 2 hours. Stir frequently.

Set aside and allow to cool enough for handling. Remove the spice bag and bay leaves. Process the liquid through a food mill or fine sieve in order to remove seeds. Return liquid to the Dutch oven and reheat to simmer. Add the lemon juice, brown sugar and vinegar and continue cooking until reduced to desired consistency.

Taste and adjust any seasoning. Ladle into hot jars, leaving ½ head space. Wipe the rims, add lids and caps and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  (see note below on canning)

Note: We don’t use a lot of ketchup, so this was processed in half-pint jars_ yield 11.
There is a natural sweetness to the heirloom tomatoes, especially Cherokee Purple, one of our favorites, thus, little or no sugar is needed.

S. lycopersicum 'Cherokee Purple'

Important Note: If you are just starting out, first read about the basics of home canning. Here is a place to begin, a simple overview, and from the Culinary Arts College, a list of 50 websites for learning self-canning.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Reaching, a memoir" by Grace Peterson

At some point in our life, we each encounter trials and tribulation, and each person responds in his or her own way.  Many are left to deal with it, and when that is the case, we use what we know, and more often than not, we revert to our old behavior. Anthony Robbins pretty well sums it up: "If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten".

As I read Grace Peterson’s book Reaching, a memoir, several words immediately came to mind: courage and strength_ to tell the world.

So many who have been abused have a difficult time going it alone, some never come away being whole again, dig deeper into the abyss and never fully cope. There are those who remain too ashamed to say, while others fortunately recognize the need and seek counsel and guidance. The journal Grace kept and the steady factor of her loving husband were truly blessings, and her strength and will were indeed a saving grace as finally Brock couldn’t take her beyond reality. At her core she always had a sense of right or wrong direction.

Beautifully written prose had me rereading certain passages as she painted a picture: “… Stoned or sober, life is a trek through a pitch black room, stumbling over injustices, maneuvering blindly around bullies and blunders, dusting off the pain, licking the wounds, picking the scabs, remembering where the trouble spots are… “.

Those going through difficult times might learn from Grace’s experience and ultimately seek professional guidance to help work through those wounds. It takes time to heal the pain and suffering, and no one can tell you what, when or how to do that, and only you know the time to make a change.

You can find Grace's book on Amazon and here is her garden blog

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our Local Coyote

It is difficult to tell whether a coyote is male or female as both look quite similar, with the exception of size. Adult coyotes weigh 20 to 35 pounds, with males being slightly larger than females. At the shoulder, an adult male coyote is about 25 inches tall.

Not sure of our comfort level here as this animal has staked out its claim_ our landscape_ its habitat. A frequent morning visitor outside my studio window, drinking from a tray of water on the ground that is a supplemental bird bath, casually walking about the garden_but with purpose_ looking, searching... confidently walking along the path_ the west side of the house_ then heads south... 
PS: Clearly our chickens will not be free range

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Pink Hill, NC

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” 
 ~ C.S. Lewis 

And that is how it's been with Susan (Myers) and me. We connected some 6 years ago and have tagged along in each others life. Susan said she recognized that here we were, two women, independently minded, who loved gardening, were involved in business and in management of our own resources; people who loved being in balance with our love of nature.

Several weeks ago she and her husband Al (Rachide) traveled out of their way to be with us, share an overnight and a few meals. Time passed so quickly as plants, cooking and projects filled a brief but amazing time together.

Have you heard of Pink Hill, NC? Well, if you haven't, then you must take a look. Pink Hill is a small community of approximately 549 population and the place Susan and Al chose to live following the purchase of the old drug store. Al is the pharmacist; they own the .99 cents store next to it, and have purchased and remodeled other buildings. Residence must be thankful that Susan and Al have chosen to make this home, as over the years they have organized efforts to make life better in their small town.

Speaking of leadership, Susan took her love of roses to a town-wide level several years ago when she decided to paint the town pink, and created the Pink Hill Flower Fund beautification project. They have now planted 730 pink Knock Out roses! and in the first quarter of next year, Susan plans to plant 500 more pink roses, Knock Out and Drifts.

Here is a prime example of where it is the people who make the difference in small towns, taking pride and beautifying the community. It is through Susan's time, energy and personal funds that this is happening.

Susan & R. rugosa 'Scabrosa'
We are so proud to have Susan and Al as friends, thank them for traveling so far to be with us, and are looking forward to our next visit.

By the way, the Third annual Pink Hill Rose Festival will be held on Saturday, May 17, 2014. If you are in the vicinity, go and enjoy. More information:

Susan's Facebook page
Pink Hill Flower Fund, Facebook
Pink Hill community, February 2013
Pink Hill Pharmacy

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Fresh Tomatoes and Canned Salsa Means Football

I don't know about you, but we cannot believe the speed with which this year is passing. Another month will soon be behind us as we face the first of September... and that should be a good month for fresh garden tomatoes... and fresh tomatoes means spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes and of course salsa... and just in time for this weekend, the first college football game.

Note to self: pick up some chips.

Fresh Tomato Salsa from Diana's kitchen
yield: 9 pints

6 lbs Roma tomatoes, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapeno peppers_ stems, ribs, seeds removed and finely minced
1 orange (or red) bell pepper, finely diced
2 large sweet onions, finely chopped
3 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
2 TB extra virgin olive oil
3 limes, juiced
¼ cup white vinegar
1 TB raw unfiltered honey
1 large bunch chopped cilantro (about 1 and ½ cups)
¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional_add in increments should you like your salsa hotter)

Combine all ingredients in a large Dutch oven. Bring to boil. Taste for any additional salt or pepper or cayenne. Add cilantro.

Carefully ladle the hot simmering salsa into hot sterilized pint jars (or quarts), and fill to within 1/2 inch from top. Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth. Place sterilized flat lid on the jar and adjust the ring. Place in a boiling water bath; water should cover the lids by about an inch. Bring the water back to boiling and process for 10-20 minutes. (Always refer to proper canning procedures here.) 

Important Note: If you are just starting out, first read about the basics of home canning. Here is a place to begin, a simple overview, and from the Culinary Arts College, a list of 50 websites for learning self-canning

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Susan_ Schnitzel and the Trout and Gravlax

Susan and I first became acquainted because of our blogs_ hers being Schnitzel and the Trout. Over the years, because of so many common interests, it was natural that we became friends. Then several years ago while traveling in Montana, my husband and I personally met Susan for lunch, and it was as if we had known one another for a hundred years (my dear husband’s expression when something seems to fit). That wonderful smile of hers says it all: warm, genuine, fun-loving… all straight from the heart.

And last week we had the pleasure of finally meeting the Trout when they traveled to the Pacific Northwest to spend some time with us.  The front door was opened with smiling faces abound_ hugs all around! They were finally here.

Such a wonderful surprise_Susan made me a personalized towel for the kitchen,

and they brought a lovely stone for the garden, inscribed_ 

Quiet hearts can hear the song of a Garden

After we settled and talked a bit, Susan asked if we knew of a local business, Singing Dog Vanilla. We had not, but my husband found the location and called. We were invited and given a personal tour by Marty, co-owner, and you can read about it on Susan's blog. Following the visit we scurried over to the local Capella's where we could purchase some of their products. Can't wait to try the vanilla bean!

Back home we had fun sporting the t-shirts Marty gave us, then prepared for a relaxing evening. Fresh Sockeye salmon, fresh green beans from the garden and a spicy cabbage slaw for dinner. (Note: Susan and Dale asked if I had ever made Gravlax. Since I had not, they suggested I set aside the end pieces of the salmon and offered instruction for making it later. See below.)

Mornings in the garden:

Morning walks in the garden
Morning bouquet
Breakfasts in the gazebo_ looks like they weren't waiting ;)
King Estate Vineyards
Wine tasting and lunch at King Estate


We laughed and talked and carried on as though we had known one another for a hundred years. The days passed too quickly! How blessed we were to have Susan and Dale visit, and we look forward to our continued friendship and the next time.


2 remaining pieces of sockeye salmon (approximately 1/4 pound and skin on)
2 TB Kosher salt
1 TB brown sugar
Black pepper (to taste)
Lemon zest, sprinkle
Dill sprigs, chopped
1 TB vodka

Skin side down, coat the salmon pieces with the salt and sugar, a little black pepper, some lemon zest, dill and finally the vodka. Sandwich the two pieces together (skin side out), place them in a glass baking dish, and cover the fish lightly with plastic wrap. Place a heavy weight (i.e. a covered brick) atop the fish and refrigerate for about three days. Each day baste the salmon with the released brine and return to the refrigerator.   

When it’s done, scrape away the dill and slice the salmon as thin as possible. Careful not to include the skin.  We happened to have a bagel: cut it in half, toasted and slathered with cream cheese; sprinkled with capers, slice of sweet onion, and the salmon. My what a treat.

Note: the next time I make this, I will use a larger and thicker filet rather than the tail end, and of course increase the ingredients.