Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stargazer Lilies

When I retired, one of the teachers from the school game me some stargazer lily bulbs.  I love stargazers, but I was afraid they wouldn't grow.

It has been six years, and this year they are more spectacular than ever.  Their glorious scent permeates the back yard, and they decorate the corner of the house in stately fashion.

I love Stargazer Lilies!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Early Harvest!

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be harvesting potatoes on June 23.  We even got our potatoes in a little late and we were still able to harvest three of the five plants.

Usually our potatoes are scrawny and small.  Sometimes they have a disease called scab on them.  So we didn't know what to expect since it was so early.

Don set the shovel far enough away, we thought, but he cut right through a big potato.  Bigger than any other we had ever harvested.  And then we dug up more and more, some that were as nice as any a person could buy in the store.  Don set them out on the kitchen cabinet for us to look at.  We are impressed . . . and we still have two more plants that are not ready to harvest yet.

We also picked several chiles.  I was hoping, because the weather had been mild, that they would be mild as well.  I cooked them last night, and mild they were not.  A little ice cream after dinner helped cool the tongue!

We are very proud of our first harvest of the year and are looking forward to many more chiles and tomatoes to come!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Baby!

Thirty-six years.  Yes, thirty-six years ago today, Don and I were married.  While the girls and I went to a bridal luncheon, my dad took Don to play golf, and he came right off the golf course to dress for the wedding.

Don's family came from Dodge City, though uncles, aunts, and cousins came from Colorado Springs, Kansas City, Tonganoxie, and Montrose.  I had never seen such support from a family before.  It was a sign of good things to come, and I have learned to love Don's aunts, uncles, and cousins.

The reception took place at the Albuquerque Country Club.  With a band, bar, and lots of food, a good time was had by all.  Too good by some, it turns out, as the priest who married us sent us off in interesting fashion.  I will leave it at that.  Kris, Don's youngest brother, even told him mom that he danced with "the real bride."  I cherish the picture that was taken of the dance!

In 1976, 36 years seemed an eternity.  Now it seems like a blink of the eye.

Happy anniversary, Don.  I love you!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Keeping Cool

It is hot in Wichita.  Hot, hot, hot.

So instead of staying home, Don and I went to a movie.  We don't attend many movies, but this was one we wanted to see, and it would be cool in the theater.  Win, win.

We chose The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, though we considered Seeking a Friend at the End of the Earth (or whatever it is) since Chris Mann's fiancee, Laura Perloe, is in it.  We decided to go to that one at a later time, and, armed with a lunch of pop and popcorn, headed into the Marigold Hotel movie.

I wasn't sure what to think.  The beginning wasn't exactly uplifting, but it was obvious that we would like the character Judy Dench was playing.  The portrayals of all of the characters were spot on.  I think we all have known someone like each person in the movie . . . well maybe not, but still, they were terrifically believable.

More than anything, the movie made me think about how I want to live the last twenty or thirty years of my life and what kind of person I want to be.  Will I be adventurous and willing to entertain new ideas, or will I be rigid and unable to adapt?  I hope, hope, hope I will be the former, because, as this movie shows, those are the people who live the happiest lives.

Saturday, June 23, 2012


I love it when, in the course of an event, I run into people from a completely different part of my life.  The webs of relationships are so cool to trace.  For example, I purchased blueberries - I hope you read about them in the previous post.  Because I want another bag, but I don't want them until next week, I wrote to Chautauqua Hills Farms and requested them.  After receiving the email, I noticed the signatures . . . Liz and Lance Chastain, whose children attended The Independent School.  Their children were wonderful additions to the school, and I loved getting to know Liz and Lance.  I hadn't seen them in years . . . and here our paths cross again.

Same with Verdant Farm.  Dana and Dave Manda showed up at a Farmer's Market that I frequented last year (well, frequented is a little strong.  It was so hot last year, I didn't "frequent" any farmer's markets.).  I was surprised to see them selling produce from their farm.  They had decided to go into the organice produce business, and I hadn't seen them in several years . . . and certainly not in the farmer capacity.  Since then, however, I have become a frequent customer!

Friday I was at the Komen luncheon, and six or eight women whose children or grandchildren attended the school were there.  One I hadn't seen since her son graduated in 1999.  I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with her and the others.  Then there was the woman with whom I had worked the silent auction at the Catbackers' event on Wednesday night . . . I didn't know she was an accomplished musician and professor at Newman, and I certainly didn't expect to see her at the luncheon.  Learn something new every day.

Earlier this week, another random encounter led to us tracing a web of many years of connections.  You just never know who you are going to meet and what the connection is, but it is so fun to renew acquaintances and see what people are doing with the next phases of their lives!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blueberries for All!

On Sunday, Linda Morgan told me about Chautauqua Hills Farms.  They have five products:  blackberries, blueberries, asparagus, garlic and honey.  Linda had just ordered a gallon of blueberries, and she thought they were quite tasty.  So I had to try them.

They have a pretty nifty system.  I don't know how it works for other cities, but for Wichita, after an order is placed online, they make arrangements to deliver the blueberries to a local health food store, Food For Thought.  I got an email telling me the berries were ready, and within an hour, I had my stash.

And they are delicious.  I am not certain what I am going to do with a gallon of them, but so far, just eating them as a snack is the winner.  They are wonderfully delicious.  I highly recommend going to and checking to see if they deliver in your area.  You won't be

This evening I also cut into the watermelon . . . and it is yellow inside.  Still tastes good, but I looked it up on Google to make sure it was legit.  It is . . . and we will eat it!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Landscape Quilts

At Kenneth's rehearsal dinner, my good friend Kathy Gunter Davis asked if she could spend a few minutes with us before the dinner started.  Unfortunately, it didn't quite happen the way she envisioned, but perhaps it happened better.  About 20 minutes after people began to arrive, in walked Kathy's adoring hubby, Walt, with a large picture in hand.  Large.  3 feet by 4 feet, maybe.

They put it down on a bench as we gathered to look at it.  I said, between tears, "What a gorgeous picture of the cabin you painted."  She corrected me.  "It's a quilt," she said.  And indeed it was.  A beautiful landscape quilt of the cabin.

Not long after, she brought me a similar quilt that now proudly hangs in our family room.  Every day, I get to see it . . . and love it!

Today, I gave Diana her quilt.  She was ecstatic!  The colors below do not do it nearly the justice it deserves, but perhaps you can see that the screens on the porch shimmer, due to the tulle that she put over the brown material.  If you could look closely, you would see the trees have needles, the rocks are variegated, and the side of the cabin is shingled.  It is truly exquisite.

When I talked to Kathy about her quilting, she told me that she entered her copy of the same quilt in a quilt show in Oklahoma.  Entrants submitted quilts that told about their home state, so Kathy submitted the cabin quilt.  I am not a bit surprised that she took first place.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

If At First You Don't Succeed . . .

I still had some really good ingredients from my farmer's market trek, so I had to redeem myself.  I put ground beef, basil, and onion into Google, and it gave me many recipes.  I chose one out of the website and made a few adaptations.  The recipe was a steak fajita, but since I didn't have steak and didn't want the carbs in tortillas, I made lettuce wrap fajita things!  Using lime juice, sliced onion, cumin, hot chile sauce, and salt, I browned the ground beef (very lean), and then added the above.  After it had simmered, I added some sliced tomatoes and basil and let it cook a little longer.

In the meantime, I took leaves from the beautiful lettuce I purchased.  Isn't it gorgeous?  It was greener and prettier in person!

I placed it on the plate, and spooned the concoction on top of the lettuce leaves.  It looked like this when I was finished.

We added a little cheese, a little more salt, and dug in.  It was very good.  Don liked it A LOT more than the cabbage from the day before.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Trying To Be A Foodie!

Today I went back to the farmer's market to see what my friends at Verdant Farm had available today.  They were out of tomatoes, but they had plenty of other good vegies to buy.  Their lettuce was lovely, so I had to have a bunch of it.  Even though I didn't need a red onion, it looked so good, I couldn't resist.  And I am not a big cabbage fan, but I figured I could do something with it.  Then they had some Vietnamese basil that I had to try.  So I bought a bag of it.  I decided against the dill, however.  I had to leave something for everyone else.

When I got home, I put "recipe for cabbage, basil, and tuna" in my Google toolbar.  Up popped a number of recipes, so I chose a cabbage salad, with a dressing made of lime juice, fish juice, sesame oil, and sugar.  The salad consisted of sliced cabbage, mint, basil, carrots, and cilantro.

I got to use my cool herb scissors to cut the mint and basil.  They are so handy to have - I splurged on them, but I use them a lot.

And although I didn't have any carrots, I figured it wouldn't alter the taste much.  Then the tuna needed to be covered with sesame seeds, and I threw it on the grill.  After slicing it, the dish looked like this:

I was so proud of myself!  I used fresh ingredients along with some that I had on hand to make a healthy meal.  Don is so easy to please, I knew he would love it.

WRONG!  For some reason, something in the salad just didn't strike his fancy.  He loved the tuna, but the salad just wasn't his thing.  We couldn't exactly figure it out because he likes cabbage, and many of the ingredients are used in another dish I make that he really likes.

So much for this recipe.  I will finish the cabbage salad because I like it, but after that, I will have to find something else to make with cabbage, basil, and tuna!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fun Wedding Times

I have been fortunate to have been invited to several weddings this summer, all of them former students at The Independent School.  It has been so fun . . . and gratifying . . . to see the young people grown, employed (and contributing to our social security :), and doing good things with their lives.

This past weekend, the priest at the wedding of Mike Metz and Sarah Pavelka did something that I thought was really nice.  As he was giving the homily, he had Mike and Sarah turn around to see all of the people who had attended the wedding, who loved them, and who supported them.  I thought that was a wonderful, heartwarming touch.  Then, before the recessional, we all turned toward the balcony so that a wide-angle picture could be taken of everyone in the pews.  I thought both of those actions were such a nice touch!

I always love weddings, and this summer is no exception.  Seeing how each couple puts their own stamp on their ceremony and reception is always interesting and fun!

Monday, June 11, 2012

I Saved the Second Tomato

. . . for Don.  It was another cherry tomato.  I thought it was only fair.  It won't be long before we have so many tomatoes, we won't be able to eat them all; but for now, we have only had two, so I thought I should share.

And it won't be long before we dig potatoes.  I know I said we were going to wait, but they are dying . . . rapidly.  So harvest is on its way . . . way too early!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The First Tomato

. . . didn't last long enough for a picture.  Never mind that it was just a little cherry tomato.  I have to say having ANY tomatoes on June 9 is a miracle.  And the one red cherry tomato was so yummy!  I should have taken a picture, but what's one little tomato having its picture taken.

I also accidentally harvested some onions.  They were bigger than I have ever grown before, too.  And harvested earlier than ever . . . of course, part of the reason for that is that Sepia always ate my onions before I could get them harvested!

I have potatoes that are already starting to die off.  Susan harvested two plants this week, and she advised that I leave mine for awhile longer, so I will, but I suspect they will be out of the ground long before usual.

There are already chiles on my vine, nearly ready to be picked.  That never happens in June, either.  And there are plenty of tomatoes on the vines that are still green.

This is a weird, weird weather year, but I am loving having the produce setting on so quickly.  Should be a good summer of eating!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Hunting Wabbits!

Just when I think Babs is getting dementia, she does something normal.  She was hunting wabbits!

I started watching her on the deck.  She had her nose down to the wood, and she began scratching at the slats.  I went out to see what was there, and sure enough, I could see the bunny's fur.  She would follow the scent around the deck, and when she would lose it, she would go to another place on the deck to find it.  When she would pick it up again, it was pretty obvious . . . that little tail would begin to wiggle back and forth and she would begin scratching again.

It is fun to see an old dog get enjoyment about something she used to do as a pup!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Farmers' Markets

We have several farmer's markets in town, and I usually go to the one right near my house.  I normally pick up a few tomatoes or a cucumber, maybe some meat or honey.  On occasion I might find something unusual, but I have to say I have been generally uninspired by what I find.  It just has seemed to be the same old, same old stuff.  Last Tuesday, one person had some interesting squash, but I am tired of squash, so I didn't get that either.  But I believe in buying locally when I can, so I try to support the local merchants as much as I can.

Wednesday morning, however, I went to a new Farmer's Market a few miles away.  I went because some friends of mine were displaying their produce there, and I wanted to see what they had.  And at their Verdant Farm booth, I felt like I was at a Farmer's market in California.  Not only was their produce beautiful, it was displayed attractively.  The red onions mixed in with the yellow ones, gorgeous white scallions, hearty red beets, chard . . . I wanted to take it all because it looked so appealing.

I had never bought chard before, and Dana convinced me to take it home.  It was very good, and I will buy it again.  Beets and scallions were the other two purchases of the day, and the beet soup was really good.  Don doesn't particularly like beets and beet soup isn't his favorite, but he even thought it was great.

The Mandas jumped into organic gardening a year or two ago, but last year was so hot, I only went to one farmer's market.  I saw their booth and purchased some food, but the heat sapped any energy I had for cooking, and I doubt that I paid much attention to what I was cooking.

This year, I am totally on board.  The Verdant Farm booth was a breath of fresh air.  Beautiful, tasty produce attractively displayed . . . can't beat it!  I have become their #1 fan . . . and I can't wait for next Wednesday!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

You Can't Say You Saw It If You Didn't See It!

I called my brother last night and told him, "You can't say you saw it if you didn't see it."  His reply?
"I tried, but I couldn't see it."  His wife said, "What are you talking about?"

I called my sister last night and told her, "You can't say you saw it if you didn't see it."  Her reply?  "I tried, but I couldn't see it."

I called Diana last night and told her, "You can't say you saw it if you didn't see it."  Her reply?  "What are you talking about?"

It is obvious that my brother, my sister, and I were raised by a man who was very interested in astronomy.  Katie, Bart, and I all had tried to find a way to see the transit of Venus, and the mystery language I used was as clear as a bell to them.

I was sad that Diana didn't get it, but apparently I didn't do a good enough job infusing a curiosity of the stars in her.  Or it could be that she doesn't take the paper and doesn't watch the news so she wasn't as tuned in as we were.

Anyway, last night after the River Festival, Don and I drove out to Lake Afton observatory.  They had numerous telescopes set up for us amateurs to look at Venus going across the sun.  We could also see a number of sunspots on the surface of the sun.   It took us longer to get there than it did to get a viewing, but that's ok.   We can say we saw it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since I have been retired, I have been baking more.  I am still not very good at it, and I have a lot to learn.  But one thing I know for sure . . . there is no such thing as the perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie.  Everyone has their own preference, and what is one person's perfect cookie is another person's average one.

Cook's Illustrated published their version of the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I have to admit it was very good, but it was a lot of work.  In order to make it perfect, the butter had to be browned, after the sugars were mixed the cook had to wait to seven minutes before mixing . . . too much work, and I didn't think they were that much better than most.

Diana thinks she makes the perfect cookie.  She never uses a mixer, preferring to do the combining and creaming by hand.  She puts in more brown sugar than most recipes require, and again, they are very good.  But I don't like to do the hand-work necessary.

I have experimented with many different recipes, and my current favorite comes right off the back of the Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chip package.  I love the taste of the milk chocolate chips, and this particular recipe has just the right consistency and taste.  I made them last week while at the cabin, and I liked them especially up there.  I think something about the high altitude made them cook just a little differently, making them particularly crispy on the edges but chewy in the middle.  Cooking them at home makes them not quite so crispy, but I like them anyway.  And the best part?  The raw cookie dough is amazing.  And isn't that why we REALLY make chocolate chip cookies?

Saturday, June 2, 2012


One of my favorite walks in the Pecos is to the top of Grass Mountain.  It is a shortish hike, challenging but not too, beautiful with vistas and forest.  We were told about a new trail to the top that would eliminate the most challenging portion of the walk, so we tried it.  Amazing.  We ended up at the same place with much less stress.  If I had known about this trail when the Ramseys came to the cabin, Aubrey might not hate hiking!

Anyway, I took my wildflower guide with me, as I forget year to year what flowers I have put in it.  I am glad to say that every flower we saw on the hike was in my guide.  Made me feel really good that I had covered the majority of the flowers that bloom at this time of year.  Iris, golden banner, strawberries, Richardson geranium, groundsel, Indian paintbrush . . . and more.  I was delighted! 

The day was picture perfect.  It was cool enough for a long-sleeve shirt, but too warm for fleece.  The sky was cloudless, the wind was light, and birds were noisy . . . spectacular.  Once we got to the top of the mountain, Bart and Jerri spent a little time photographing the vistas.  Their pics are better than ours, but here's a little of what we all saw. 

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Pillars of the Earth

I am so proud of myself.  Yes, indeed.  Proud.  I just finished The Pillars of the Earth.  Now I know many of you have read it, but this is quite an accomplishment for me.  I started it last weekend . . . and here I am, done.  Mind you, Diana read it in a day . . . but I am not Diana.  And this is a miracle.

I purchased it for Di when Oprah was raving about it, and Di confirmed that it was a great book.  As a matter of fact, just last week she said it was still her favorite book . . . which is saying something, since she has read many more books than I.  Our book club decided it would be our summer read, so I determined to read it early.  So glad I did.

For the first 600 pages, I couldn't put it down.  The intricately-woven plot kept me guessing throughout, and Follett's well-drawn characters were likeable or loathsome, but never uninteresting.  The reader could not feel ambivalent about any of them, and the various mysteries surrounding them don't become totally clear until the very end.

Although the last 300 pages seemed a bit contrived and too tidy, it ended up being satisfying.   Perhaps it ended a little too perfectly, but there was plenty of imperfection in the story.  Follett certainly did study the medieval times, construction, and the church, and the history alone is worth taking the time to read.  If you haven't read it, put it on your list.  Don't let the over 900 pages scare you. Diana is right - it is a fast read.