Grocery Inflation

As if we needed yet another reason to garden–have you seen the price of food lately?  From fresh vegetables to coffee and cotton, prices have jumped.  And don’t even ask about the price of chocolate.  Our beloved sweet may become a rare commodity, indeed.  No kidding.  Seems West Africa farmers are giving up the crop in pursuit of better wages in the cities while at the same time, world demand is increasing.  Have you heard the health benefits of dark chocolate?  Heavy on the cocoa, easy on the milk.  Not a good combination when it comes to the demand side of the equation. 

Then of course there’s a certain hedge fund manager who bought a ton (literally, I think) of cocoa beans for investment.  Downright evil market manipulation is what I call it.  How could he be so cruel?  Why, I have a mind to grow some cocoa plants myself.  I’m in Florida, they grow near the Equator…  Sounds like a feasibility study’s in order!

Thank goodness gardening is easy and fun, else we’d all starve of malnutrition and chocolate deprivation.  Plant, water, harvest, consume–easy!  

Okay.  You caught me.  I’m luring you in.  But truthfully, gardening doesn’t have to be hard.  In fact, once you learn the secrets to mutinous-proof weed maintenance, it’s even easier.  If you don’t believe me, ask my kids. 

Or, follow along as I guide my friend Julie through the process of starting a family garden.  We’ll begin from scratch and work our way through each step of the process, much like we did with Mandie.  Remember her?  She’s still gardening, I think.  (Please, Mandie–tell us you’re still you’re still growing green and strong!) 

But there are more great reasons to garden than it’s easy and fun.  Think of the health benefits (non-toxic, because we only garden organic), the convenience (who has time to run to the store every time they feel like a fresh strawberry and spinach salad?), the educational aspect (last time I checked, botany was still a subject at school), and of course, who can forget the main reason:  gardening for the sheer joy of it.  For the kids, it’s more the adventure factor–creepy crawlies tend to be exciting for them whereas we seem to have lost the enthusiasm for that kind of thrill.  (Wait–I know it’s here somewhere…) 

Stay-tuned and watch the fun as Julie and her family venture into the land of green.  Better yet, how about join her and start a garden of your own and share your experience wit us?  We learn by doing!  A lesson best achieved in the company of fellow enthusiasts. 

Though it sure would be nice if cocoa plants grew like this row of garlic.  I could wait a season.  But five years is pushing it.

Advertisements

Too Many Strawberries?

What!  How could you have too many strawberries?

Oh.  You took the kids strawberry picking this weekend.  Yes, I understand.  They do grab berries at alarming rates, don’t they…

And now you’ve had your fill of strawberry shortcake, strawberry smoothies, strawberries and cream, strawberries on your corn flakes.   What else could you possibly do with a strawberry?

How about tossing some in your salad?  When combined with a mix of velvety soft buttercrunch and crispy firm spinach leaves from the garden — they make for the most delectable lunch. 

Looks good, doesn’t it?  It is.  The secret to this salad’s appeal is the striking  contrast between fresh tangy berry and sweet mild goat cheese.  It’s melt in your mouth good.  Check my recipe section for details!

First time I realized strawberries made a wonderful addition to salads was dinner at my cousin Nancy’s home.  She added nuts along with a variety of fresh ingredients, but for me, the strawberries were the main attraction. 

Of course, the joy of picking them ourselves added to the pleasure!  This little guy just looks like he’s having fun, doesn’t he?

He was, we were…  Picking your own fruits and veggies is great fun for the entire family.  To find a u-pick farm near you–check this great website

Then you too, may find yourself in the midst of a sea of berries.   Gorgeous, isn’t it?

If Men Were Plants, Mine Would Be A…

Have you ever wondered about the similarities between plants and men?  Probably not!  Most sane people don’t.  But me, when I’m not writing, I spend a LOT of time in my garden – maybe too much — and my thoughts?  Well, they naturally veer in that direction.  That’s when I realized men and plants have much in common!

Ever wonder, if your man were a plant, which would he be?  Just for fun, I’ve listed a few.

Corn – Tall and slender with silken hair, this man provides well and yields a harvest of golden treasure.  While pleasing to look at, beware:  he also tends to be needy; easily blown over by the slightest of breezes—not the man for you hardier types!

Peanut – This good ole boy is made of solid stuff, on the inside and the outside, not to mention he’s filled with sweet old-fashioned appeal.  For most ladies, it’s a tough combination to resist.  Add the fact the kids love him and you’ve got a yourself a marrying man! 

Watermelon – This well-rounded fun-loving guy is always welcome at a summer barbecue and usually proves a big hit with the kids.  Prone to balding, his colorful personality distracts one from notice.  However, take heed.  If left to his own device, this one can grow wild and get quite out of hand!

Garlic – This fellow is somewhat distant, as he spends long periods of time out of sight, only to emerge when conditions improve.  Strong and distinct, he’s not for everyone, but given the right environment, he can show great depth, even mellow his pungent tone with time.  A worthy peer, indeed.

Okra – Strong, of firm build, this one likes it hot and enjoys it spicy—very at home in the Big Easy, too.  Generally speaking, he blends well with others, can plant himself anywhere, but caution:  he can be seedy, even a bit slimy at times.

Potatoes – These fellas are generous producers, enjoyed by most everyone as they appeal to a variety of tastes.  They can get easily crowded, though, so give them plenty of space.  If you do, you’ll have yourself a real winner with this one.  Note:  be patient with the sweeter types—they need a little more time before they’re ready to hit the dinner-date table.  But if you can wait, go for it.  You’ll reap the gold with this gem!

Onion – Sometimes sharp, sometimes sweet, this notable companion enhances every dish he meets.  But don’t be fooled.  You have to watch yourself around this double-edged treat.  He tends to “age” those around him quicker than most, and will often make you cry.  But if you like a challenge, give him a try.  He will infuse your life with flavor!

Raspberry – Sweet at first sight, this guy may follow up with a tart bite.  He generally likes to be left alone—literally thrives out in the wild of nature.  Ah…an adventurous type yourself, you’ll feel drawn to this bright and colorful character, but be forewarned:  he’s got thorns and lots of them.

Squash – Talk about diversity, this one has it!  From sunny yellow summers to cold and cozy winters, this man will keep you well supplied no matter the season.  The cutest of pumpkins, he’s always welcome during the holidays, and his cousin plays a mean racquet ball—for you sportier types.  But keep him moving; stagnation easily leads to illness with this one.  Rest assured, if variety is your thing, take heart.  This dazzling character can fulfill your desires, tenfold.

Carrots – Bred from firm and solid fiber, these men are steady and strong and always there for you.  Given proper attention, they can also become quite sweet in nature; a true hidden treasure, if ever there was one.  They do need some elbow room, a bit of thinning at times, but if you’re willing to work for it, this one’s a keeper!

Beets – Down to earth is putting it mildly with this guy–he’s knee deep in it!   Quiet, mellow, well-rounded…  It’s a wonder he doesn’t rank top of the list for every woman in town.  Perhaps he can come on a bit strong, in an easy-going sort of way.  But if you have thick skin and like to keep it real?   This one’s for you.

Lettuce – This boy likes everybody and everybody likes him.  Similar to the granola-type male, this fella stays healthy and fit, slim and trim.  How could he be anything else?  He has a knack for blending well with any crowd and blend well, though be careful–once he mingles, it’s hard to separate him from the mix!

Tomatoes – This popular guy is an all around favorite with the ladies, most drawn to his bright and cheery appearance and radiant personality.  A real reliable kind of guy, sweet with a hint of tang, meaty and quite robust—he comes in all sizes.  Yes, this one is tempting.  Be sure you’re in for the commitment—he’s going to need it if you expect him to produce.

My husband?  He’s definitely a raspberry with garlic tendencies, albeit aging like a carrot. 

Me?  He claims I’m a Venus flytrap.  Yes, I gave him the evil eye—at first.  But then, I got to thinking.  Imagine the unique and stunning plant for a moment, with her beautiful red, heart-shaped petiole, her pair of symmetrical lobes hinged near the midriff—I mean, midrib.  Lovely so far, isn’t it?  Catches insects and spiders with a bat of her eyelashes.  Tolerates fiery tempers–er, fire well.  Tolerates fire well.   Actually uses the flames to suppress the competition around the neighborhood.  (Sounds like a feisty gal to me!) 

Sure, she can be difficult to grow, but what plant doesn’t have its difficult days?  You know, the more I think about it, the more I heard compliment.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Butterscotch Cookies, Anyone?

Now that the brownies have vanished (okay vanished isn’t quite true — I mean, we know where they went), my daughter has moved on to cookies.   Sweet of her, isn’t it?  She’s actually baking in preparation for a family get together this weekend.   No special occasion, no particular reason, we’re simply getting together because we haven’t seen each other in a while.

Odd, when you live in a small town.   But it happens, doesn’t it?   We get so busy with our own lives, doing our thing, we forget to make the time for those we care about the most.   It’s almost as though we “assume” their presence in our lives until next thing you know, it’s been three months since you’ve seen one another! 

One of my best girlfriends pointed out this sad fact to me years ago.  Living only 30 minutes apart, we barely had time to visit, what between her three kids and my two.  Add a couple of husbands, a few jobs…next thing you know, months have passed without so much as a lunch date!   When she moved to Tallahassee, I was heartbroken.   “Now I’ll never see you.”   

She looked at me and stated quite bluntly, “You never see me now.”

While my first reaction was hurt, I couldn’t argue.   She was right. 

Thankfully, our family has a resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Family-Gatherings who coordinates such events — my beautiful stepmother.  Realizing it had been a while since our last gathering, considering the fact that my international pilot brother was in town, my cross roads trucker brother was on hand, my sister and I both without events, she scheduled dinner.  Casual, easy, a let’s-just-hang-out-together kind of evening.  The resident Woman-in-Charge-of-Everything-Else (my illustrious mom) will be there, too.  Odder still, what goes on in small towns!  

It’s actually very nice to be able to include everyone at the dinner table, and we do so, blending adult children and offspring, grandparents and friends, the new traditions continues;  my daughter is baking for said event.   Which means I’m tasting.  Well, I am Resident-Chief-Taste-Officer-of-all-Things-She-Bakes!  Where do you think her sweet tooth came from–the tooth fairy?  

Nope.   She inherited it from me, and I inherited mine from my dad (her second favorite person to bake for — after her daddy, of course).   Nibbling into the first morsel, the cookie melted in my mouth, drenching my palate with sheer glory.  The girl has outdone herself.   Using a recipe she found in Cuisine at home cooking magazine, she made butterscotch cookies and I’m here to tell you, these cookies are fantastic!   Who knew you could pack so much flavor into a simple cookie? 

I’m talking real flavor;  a mix of ginger and brown sugar, butterscotch and confectioner’s.  If you like cookies, you need to try these.  You’ll find the recipe on my blog as it’s not available online.  Plopping the remainder of the sample in my mouth, I gazed up at my girl from my spot on the couch, my shirt shamelessly covered with sweet white powder and swallowed.   “May I have another?”

She grinned.   “You like them?”

“Like them?  I love them.”

Rule number one:  if you want seconds, you’d better compliment the chef.  Cooking may be her passion, but positive reinforcement is her natural desire.   And you don’t want to be dropped from the invite list when it comes to her dessert table

Rule number two:   try to keep your cookie consumption to a minimum.   There are others waiting for the cookie dish so please move aside.   Chagrin.   Snag.  Thank you, come again!

The good news is we can always make more.   And with Valentine’s Day drawing near, you may find yourself wanting to ply your way into the heart of someone special — and these cookies will certainly do the trick!   Unless your sweetheart is allergic to butterscotch whereby I’d try a different course.   Chocolate does make for a handy backup plan, though, and comes in all shapes and sizes.

Just a friendly reminder.   Family, friends and love…isn’t that what living is all about?

Quality Time in the Garden

“Mom, I brought snacks.”

Lifting my head from my tilling work of the potato row, I smiled at my son.  “Really?  What’d you bring?”

“Pistachios.  Do you like pistachios?”

“Sure do.”

Passing me, he promptly dropped to the ground and wrestled to open the canister (our fall purchase from his sister the Girl Scout).  “Can I have some of your water?” he asked.

“By all means.  We can share.  Your pistachios for my water.”

“Um-hm.” 

Returning to my task of tilling dirt for the addition of our compost–the compost he was supposed to be shoveling into the row but had since abandoned, I noted, “So I gather you’re on break?”

“No, I’m not on break.”

This gave me pause.  “No?”

“No, I’m just eating pistachios.”

“But you’re not working.  That’s what we call it when you stop to eat.  It’s called a break.”

Adamantly, he shook his head to the contrary. 

“Do you intend to shovel and pop nut shells at the same time then?”

“No.  I’m just eating them.”  He looked up.  “Want some?”

Giving in to the futility of the conversation block, I replied, “Sure.”

He reached up and plopped an already shelled nut into my mouth.  That is good.  Straightening, my lower back screaming tight, I decided break or no break, this was as good a time as any to sit down and eat nuts.  I lowered myself down to the ground next to him and stuck my hand out. 

He deposited another already shelled nut into my hand.  “Here ya go,” he said — service with a smile.

“Thanks.”   Running through half the can, we talked about nothing in particular, content with our simple enjoyment of tossing shells over the potato row (they are biodegradable after all, and it was fun to aim for the variety of holes in the dirt).  

“He throws, he hits–scores!”  My son cheers.  “And the crowd goes wild!”

I’ve heard this chant before, though I can’t place my finger on exactly where, and delight in his gardening-turned-sports-drama.   No TV, no DS, no itouch…just us, hanging out in the garden on break (or whatever he thinks we’re doing). 

It was nice.  Easy, simple.  Just plain old-fashioned nice.  Looking at him, the shells piling up, I asked, “Can I have a kiss?”

Without hesitation, he leaned over and planted one smack dab on my lips.  I smiled.  “Thanks.”

I don’t receive too many of those anymore, not with him growing up so fast, his self-conscious awareness as his buddies look on… 

And I miss them.  I miss him.  No longer as exciting as an afternoon on the playground with his friends, a play over with his neighbors, an afternoon of football and chips with his dad, I take what I can get.  I’m sensible.  I accept the changes. 

Later, when the game ends and he snuggles up close to me on the sofa, I remind him one day he’ll whisk me across the dance floor when he’s taller than me–

–to which he responds with a shy yet delighted roll of his eyes.   “Mom…”

I grinned and gave him a squeeze.  “Sorry.”  But that’s the way we moms roll.

Previous Older Entries