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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Scotch, Anyone?

Here’s what they don’t tell you. When you bring a doughy newborn home from the hospital (or in our case the adoption agency—but you know what I mean), agonizing during the one-hour ride that her car seat isn’t adjusted correctly—when you change that first messy diaper with hands that don’t know how, and run to the bassinet every time you hear a grunt, staying awake all night to make sure that baby’s still breathing—in the middle of all this, you cannot fathom, cannot ever-in-your-wildest-dreams imagine—that one day you will sit in a car beside this child as a not-in-control passenger, while she learns how to drive.

Yep, we did it and the good news is we’re still talking to each other.

I have bad memories of driving lessons. The one that sticks out is perching behind the wheel with my mom riding shotgun, on a trip to get Dad from the train. When she took issue (correctly) with how far away from the curb I had parked (about six feet), hot head that I was, I slammed the car door and stalked home. Mothers and daughters—it’s not always pretty.

Recalling that, when our daughter obtained her newly minted learner’s permit last month, I suggested that it might be best for both of us if she started her driving lessons with her dad. The problem is, he works in a different state, doesn’t get home until late, and crams yard work and sailing into the weekend. They’ve had Sunday morning sessions in an abandoned church parking lot and the quiet neighborhoods surrounding it, and she’s done well—but she needs more exposure and I’m the one around to give it to her.

Drat. If I had a job, I’d have an excuse.

JK. Practice is key I know, so the last two Sundays, I zippered my mouth, crawled into the back seat and observed their driving lessons—in theory—to get a perspective of how well she is doing and therefore the confidence to drive alone with her. Consequently, when she asked for a turn at the helm yesterday, I had no good reason to decline, unless you want to count unmitigated fear. It figures that I swallowed my Tuesday cup of coffee minutes prior to her request, so that even before climbing into the car, my hands were shaking.

To be perfectly frank, I’m a jumpy passenger no matter who is in control and on top of that my acting skills leave a lot to be desired. Knowing this, as we pulled into the beach parking lot where I was to hand over the keys, I prayed: “Dear God, please don’t let her know how scared I am.” Humph. Apparently, God had other things going on. That said, other than the multiple “I know, Moms,” the parking lot was fine—and too soon in my book, it was time to take to the street.

Ah, our streets. You know about the ledges in our yard, but have I ever mentioned that the name of our town comes from a Native American word meaning “Long Rocky Place?” The longest ridge towers on both sides of the curving road that we were forced to drive down, when, just my luck, the wider alternative was detoured. Even when I’m driving, claustrophobia lines this byway—with her at the wheel I swear the cliffs squeezed closer. Ridiculous as it sounds, it’s a street often populated with walkers and bike riders—many of whom choose to travel with their backs to oncoming traffic. Cars are regularly forced to veer over the center line—the expression “drive defensively” was coined for this stretch. While she tried to get a grip on that term, I maintained my grip on the arm rest, digging half-moons into gray vinyl while struggling to appear calm; “Up ahead is a blind curve, go slow because you don’t know what might be on the other side.”

Is it OK to admit that at one point, I closed my eyes?

Gulp. She made it though the row of exposed manhole covers popping around the town common and inched her way up to take the obstructed-view turn in front of the Art Center. Gripping the steering wheel, she exhaled as a dump truck passed her on the “grandfathered” less-than-legal-width bridge on our road, then pulled into our driveway to park halfway between each door of the two-car garage. Turning to face me, she smiled as she said: “I’m going to tell Dad that you are just as nervous a passenger with me as you are with him.”

No duh. It was 3:30 in the afternoon and I walked into the house wishing I could reach for a drink.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Battling Back

The year we moved into our home, the weeds in the backyard soared over my head. That first summer, we had ignored the back until my husband, who measures up at 6’4”, stood eye to eye with those monster plants. Horror replaced bemusement when we realized that an entire army of briars and pokeweeds had invaded the half-acre of our new backyard.

Before that discovery, we had other things on our mind. The previous occupants of our home, my husband’s brother and his wife, spent four years reversing the neglect that had occurred under the helm of the old Doctor from whom they had purchased the house. A widower, Doc P. had given up maintaining the place years before. The day he sold the home he sealed the deal with a handshake and departed, leaving a ‘76 Plymouth dead in the garage and a load of wet laundry growing moldy in the dryer. Room by room they cleared out what he left behind, polishing grimy floors, stripping water-stained wallpaper, and laying claim to the inside of their residence.

When they sold the house to us, the inside glistened--so we spent our first months painting the outside--and my husband went after the poison ivy patch covering the front lawn. Five itchy sessions after and way too late, we noticed the wilderness consuming the back. Doc P.’s ancient sickle hanging from the garage rafters offered the first clue that these weeds had history, but undaunted, we commenced an assault, chopping a path through the vegetation swallowing our property.

When the lawnmower stalled upon its introduction to the tangle, we saturated the foliage with environmentally safe--therefore, I'm sorry to say, ineffective vegetation killer. Then we got down and dirty--donning gloves and yanking at the plants--but endless roots burrowed yards away, along the trip giving birth to new shoots. We hauled ropey tendons out of the ground until subsequent crops erupted--then threw up our hands and whacked at the mess with the Doctor’s sickle until frost killed the weeds for the year.

The following spring, as we squared our shoulders for a new attack, a scrub hemlock imbedded in a hill on our “lawn” distracted us, and we decided to transplant the seedling. Mindful of our wrestling match with the briars, we approached with a shovel, pick ax and hoe. The tree however, needed little persuasion. With a two handed yank my husband pulled it loose along with a snarl of weeds and dead grass. Astonished, we realized that our bush wasn’t rooted into a hill at all.

Thousands of years ago glaciers created rock formations across our part of New England and the thin earth in which our sapling had imbedded itself was resting on a granite shelf chronicling those ice flows. Gullies engraved by glaciers yielded a rock gardener’s dream, a bonanza of black, porous mulch. High-fiving, we abandoned the pick ax and drove winding roads to the nearest garden center, returning to incorporate purple Creeping Phlox, pink Bee Balm, and yellow Coreopsis into our landscape design.

In spite of this victory, elsewhere the weeds multiplied. Once again, we primed ourselves to wrestle the roots, and once again a clang of the pick ax revealed ledge under a veneer of earth. Clearing off further debris, we planted orange Daylilies, purple Balloon Flowers and graceful Anemones in the dirt between the fissures—pleased with our success though the majority of the yard remained an impenetrable web. Adding insult to injury, while digging new gardens, we discovered a granite boulder perched by our cement patio surrounded with piles of broken bricks and glass--evidence that the Doctor’s trash didn’t make it to the landfill. Spurred on by recent accomplishments, we dug out shale and refuse, carted in wheelbarrows full of fresh loam--surrounding the rock with Dutch Iris and more Daylilies.

Soon, a shady area at the back of the top ledge beckoned. There, boulders gnashed like teeth at churning mower blades--so ignoring the roots we were supposed to abolish we established others--edging the area with Hostas and Foxgloves then moving on to the 40-year-old rhododendrons lining the side of the yard. They too were planted around ledge; another lawn-mower nightmare. The solution was Pachysandra. On our knees we planted hundreds of seedlings, creating a leafy ground cover—then moving on to the neglected spot under our bedroom window which became a repository for Cushion Spurge and variegated Hostas. Rosemary, Chives, Thyme and Sage filled the empty rectangle beside it. Eventually, our daughter, a longstanding observer to these backyard maneuverings, requested her own garden by the back door; she chose annuals, Cleome and Cosmos.

Heaving a wrought iron bistro set up to a bluestone patio we had installed--now on weekend days we sit breathing deeply as the sun reaches over the pines and warms us. Sipping coffee we gaze over our property, drinking in the color that has become our yard. You see, suddenly seventeen years have passed since we first began our wilderness struggle and today, we recognize that first invading militia was the force that propelled us to uncover our yard’s potential. Plot by plot, ledge by ledge, our land coerced us into clearing and sowing, each achievement leading us closer to the symphony of gardens that now bloom April through October.

Oh yes--and those uncompromising weeds that first drew us into this garden conquest? Well, somewhere between the Dutch Iris and the Pachysandra, we gave in and hired a backhoe.

Thesedays, our yard is in check—though control remains tenuous and vigilance essential-- yesterday I noticed briars winding their way among the daylilies.
Seventeen years later though, the Doc’s sickle still hangs in the rafters, so I’m off to get my gloves.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Emotional Appetite

If you are going to indulge in a junk food extravaganza, it might as well be via a bag of Fritos Corn Chips dipped into a pint of French onion dip although it begs two questions; what is a French onion and do the French actually dip? Did you groan there? I'm sorry. It's just that, oh my, yesterday was a bad food day. After a difficult week I dove right toward comfort, which meant wrapping up in a down quilt and reading Anne of Green Gables while scooping Fritos and drinking Coke.

Just to make things clear, I don’t buy soda normally. The Fritos happened to be left over from a family gathering, and while I’ll confess to loving them, they are rarely invited in the doorway because of how above and beyond terrible they are as snack foods go--not to mention the fact that they make my hands swell. Ugh. It’s depressing that swollen appendages have become a part of my regular discourse—but tight rings or not, at that particular moment, the emotional need was there and so were the chips. That’s what I call Karma and the phrase “I snarfed” is appropriate here.

As for Anne of Green Gables, well, like the Fritos, that was a regression to childhood and if I could have found a way to hop on my two-wheeler and ride back to sixth grade--when the rain stopped I’d have done that too. Instead, I made do with salted chips and sweetened soda while disappearing into a tale about innocence and kindred spirits.

Every once in a while real life makes it necessary to exit stage left and head back to an easier age--to an era when our only worry about food was what time we were expected home for supper--and that’s the place where I spent Sunday. If my mother-in-law hadn’t called and invited us over for her own version of comfort food, roast chicken--gravy and stuffing too, it wouldn’t have stopped there. Sitting with my legs perched on the coffee table, enveloped in my cocoon and picturing a redheaded Anne with an “e,” I had been contemplating meatloaf and macaroni and cheese.

What foods do you eat for comfort?

Friday, September 25, 2009


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The sea churns, the winds howl, the lighthouse stands.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Out of the Shadows

When I ruminated about nixing the oak tree behind our house--the one that drops stringy things in May, inchworms in June, acorns in September, leaves in November, December and January, and blocks the sun all summer long--our brother-in-law the tree guy looked at me in horror. “That tree is an umbrella. It keeps the house cool.” Actually, I knew that, and it wasn’t really that tree I was talking about. It was all the trees, and it was a sigh, not to be taken seriously, a momentary aberration caused by the drape of spider webs layered around our house.

Spiders, in case you don’t know it, like shade. They especially like it in autumn, at the corner between our garage and the dining room, under the family room window, around the hose-holders, and most of all along our farmer’s porch to the front door, which we rarely use and therefore don’t pay attention to until visitors arrive and walk into a six-foot web. If we lived in a Victorian we could compete with the Addams Family.

When we purchased our house, my husband and I thought we had died and gone to heaven. Situated on a winding country road, then it was nestled in among hemlocks, surrounded by taller oaks and pines. If you walk a boulder-strewn hundred yards straight back through woods, you reach a swampy tributary to the town reservoir. Living on a cut-through street, the front is noisy, but behind the house, surrounded as we were with greenery and ledge, it was like entering a forest reserve. A few years after we bought it blight attacked the hemlocks and one by one those firs died. If they didn’t fall of their own accord, we had to take them down. This gave us more yard and a pristine view of the neighbor’s three car garage when he built it ten feet from our property line—but the oaks and pines remain. In spite of the ravages of the Wooly Adelgid our back continues to invite us with its peaceful solitude.

The remaining trees though, are always dropping something. Right now it’s the brown papery slivers from the pines accumulating in the driveway that we track into the house--and acorns from the oak that hit off the aluminum gutters like firecrackers. When those are done, the pine cones will start falling. That’s good for a five-dollar-a-bag payment to our daughter who wanders out there when her allowance isn’t cutting it. Then there are the leaves. Tarps and tarps of them. Our daughter and I tag team with my husband. He rakes, we drag, and the numbers are astounding--fifty or sixty trips across the yard, over the ledge and up the hill each fall--to dump them deep in the woods. Sometimes I think we should just let it all go, except I’m afraid we’d be smothered. For years after we moved into our home we loved it so much, we were convinced the only way we’d leave would be in a box. Now we are a little worried that the surrounding property might be the thing that puts us there.

Nothing though, annoys me as much as the spider webs. From the street, our house looks well kept. We mow, we prune, we garden, and we edge, rake and weed, but it’s almost impossible to keep up with the spiders. So what looks good from fifty feet back resembles a scene from Rocky Horror up close, hanging threads of webs, lifting in the breeze. We sweep them, blow them, brush them off with cloths and before long those industrious buggers are back at it. From what I can tell, they don’t sleep. It’s enough to make you want to move to one of those developments where they bulldoze everything before building Stepford homes.

At my most aggravated though, I look out back to the woods, to ancient stone walls that mark our property line, to the roll and sweep of land that looks the way it has for hundreds of years—and realize that we’re a part of something bigger. We can go out beyond the tree line and see the same topography as a hunter from the 17th century, stepping carefully over broken limbs and scores of granite boulders. Hemlocks may go, but other trees will take their place and glacial ledges will forever heave out of the earth where they landed thousands of years ago. Living here makes us an element of history--not disrupters of the earth, but part of it—visitors to an unbroken cycle--participants in an ever repeating sequence. Changing that would just be wrong.

So regardless of how exhausting, we’ll stay here and continue to pick up what Mother Nature drops. I’ll go on aiming the blower at what are probably the zillionth grandchildren-removed from some spider that existed a thousand years ago--though I’ll be sure to hang up the blower sometime in early October. That way when Halloween comes we won’t have to decorate.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Java Jive

Over the course of my oversleeping, spill the breakfast smoothie, forget to make the lunch, stub my toe morning yesterday, I never drank my coffee. I’m not a coffee addict per se. Not for me the multiple trips to Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts, a back seat cluttered with crumpled dead soldiers--too cheap, for one, and a cup a day does me fine--on the occasions that I imbibe in more, my fingers vibrate. That cup though, has become my comfort, my hand warmer, my morning snack, my distraction, and yes, I suppose, my habit.

I’m not a “first thing in the morning” coffee girl. It’s not required to wake me up--the shower I stumble into at dawn accomplishes that feat well enough. The blend of coffee and orange juice churns like an acidic ocean in my belly, so caffeine isn’t a part of breakfast—unless that meal includes eggs over easy, corned beef hash, potatoes and someone named Thelma, scribbling on a pad while asking “Coffee to start you off, hon?” Then the answer is a plain and simple “Yes.” Sigh. Sans a paycheck, restaurant breakfasts have become few and far between.

My practice though, back in the day when life included an 8:30 – 5:00 obligation, involved a drive to work between 7:30 and 8:00. There I kicked-off each day with a winding walk to the corporate cafeteria for the complimentary, albeit bitter brew offered as a company perk for my last eight years. Yup, spoiled rotten, lazy. For more mornings than I can remember, there was no requirement to make the coffee, clean the pot, dispose of the grounds, or absent all that, dig for spare change. Over that last year or so, I acquired an environmental conscience, abandoning the Styrofoam cups dispensed in the cafeteria and going green. This added a journey to the office kitchen to clean out my cup, a trip I forgot to make enough times that it necessitated a detour for a wash up before getting that routine mugful. That was the only effort though. Gosh, free coffee. Some days it tasted better then a comprehensive benefit package.

Now though, there’s no brewed beverage waiting for me. Many mornings, I sit down in front of this computer around the same time as “back when" and it inhales me to the point that I fail to pour the water and flip the switch on Mr. Coffee— in fact at times also neglecting lunch. On those days I lift my head blinking at 2:00, a few minutes before I need to pick up my daughter, realizing my stomach has been yowling louder then our temperamental cat--which is all good.

There is so much to be said for when the work you love sidetracks you from other err, attractions. In the corporate world, coffee, lunch, even an occasional mid-afternoon snack provided excuses to break away from employment that was simply “fine.” Now I’m so immersed in this “job,” I have to put the timer on to remind me to pick up my daughter or I risk a call from an annoyed teen: “Are you coming?” Oops.

Yesterday’s rough start may have distracted me from filling the pot, but it’s this blog, my practice, my teacher and my guide, the writing that engrosses me so that time loses its meaning—that's the real cause of this caffeine withdrawal. I’m not getting paid in cash for what I’m doing. Yet the rewards warm me like a cup of coffee between my palms on the coldest winter day.

Except when writing about it reminds me that it’s the second morning in a row that I haven’t tasted coffee and two days with no java will not fly.

Excuse me while I go grind the beans.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Outside In

The cover attracted me the first time I picked up the book early this spring, and for that matter the second and the third. A redheaded pre-teen girl with wet hair leans her shoulders over the wooden planks of a weathered dock, the bottom half of her body swallowed in green water. Readers of Middle Passages know how many of the photographs I’ve included in this blog involve the ocean. To remark on the obvious: the sea compels me--so I was fated to reach for this novel: The Condition, by Jennifer Haigh, while visiting our local bookstore.

However, after reading the synopsis, I shuddered and put the missive down, unwilling to fork over my not hard-earned cash on such dreary subject matter. On each subsequent visit that cover roped me in and I’d repeat the performance, picking up the book, reading the blurb, then returning it to the “Recommended Reading” table.

Fast forward to the library last week as I perused the two double-sided bookshelves allotted to “Fiction--New” and guess what my hand pulled out. Consistency, thy name is Liza. Once again I winced as I read the summary, the crux of which goes like this:

“Twenty years after Gwen’s diagnosis with Turner’s syndrome—a genetic condition that has prevented her from maturing, trapping her forever in the body of a child, all five family members are still dealing with the fallout.”

This time however, we were talking the library—free reading—the only investment, time. Resigned, I tucked the book on my hip with the other novel I’d selected and wandered to the mahogany check-out desk.

Finally, several months after first encountering it, I’m reading The Condition and all I can say is that I’m sorry I waited because the language has snagged me and now I'm the end of a line flopping like a helpless fish. Choice is no longer an option--I simply have to go where this author leads me.

Somewhere over the last many months I read a quote along the lines of: “There is nothing new to write about, only the need to write about it in a new way.” In describing a disagreement a character has with her sister, Haigh does just that as she explains:

“She was often blindsided by how acerbic her sister could be, how in the middle of a pleasant conversation Martine could deliver a zinger that stopped her cold: the backhanded compliment, the ripe apple with the razor inside.”
Her description had me holding the apple, just picked, red and crisp and I bit into tart sweetness--the juices flowing from the back of my mouth—until reaching the razor.

The story begins at a summer home on Cape Cod, which Haigh portrays as “A house with wide windows and doors, a house meant to be flung open.” Anyone reading could imagine that house, you know the one, the Victorian shingled grey, situated above the seawall, cotton curtains blowing in the open upper windows, a home with a wrap-around porch circling its waist--a wooden door squealing and slaming as it chases the occupants out.

Later, Haigh draws a picture of another home:
“To Paulette the house was not a simple investment. The place was like a beloved grandfather, mute and broken, plagued by a host of hidden ailments, but still sentient”

and her reader sees the old man, his age spotted hands placed on each bony knee, eyes fluttering as he naps on a shabby tweed recliner.

I’m only a third of the way through, but reading all this, I see the talent it takes to sculpt a story—the steady hands, a sharp chisel--a fine eye for detail. It may have been the cover design that compelled me to open the book, but the real art resides on each page. With no water colors or oils, charcoal or pastels, the tale relies on an intriguing blend of language, shifted, stacked, rearranged, laid out in patterns destined to captivate. I’m inhaling this writer’s ability in gluttonous mouthfuls, swishing the words from side to side to ensure optimum taste.

As I swallow, I understand that a book like this touches down to the core of me and shows me why love to write.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Week In Review

Things to note:

This “Week in Review” came about out of my need to remind myself, at a scary time, of the unexpected positives that have developed from my change in circumstances. Weekly “Things I Have Learned” and/or “Things to Note” become more difficult to capture as I grow more accustomed to my new life.

Whether through knitting a sweater, baking a loaf of bread, writing a poem or painting a picture--the act of creating and nurturing with your own hands bestows an ultimate fulfillment. If it were possible to capture this feeling in a container, it could be mass marketed as a miracle elixir. I can’t bottle it, so I guess I’ll grow tomatoes.

Sometimes I resent “No Trespassing” signs.

Believe it or not, there’s a spray that immediately calms a stressed cat. After sixteen peaceful days, I had to use it. That’s one miracle elixir that does come in a bottle.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Road Almost Taken

The sign read: “Private Property. Gate closes at 5:00 p.m.” so we of course, walked through, past the new-shingled Victorian situated above the sea, down the rutted road that lifts and descends between the churning ocean and the windswept marsh. A friend who grew up here once told me that she remembers walking the entire length as a child, to the bluff that I have only seen from the water, where a sprawling cape sits at the top of an expansive lawn--and to the Adam’s Estate, connected to decedents of John Quincy--a monstrous and weathered colonial stacked with first and second-floor front porches.

The road leading to The Glades is checkered like a game board with squared-off summer cottages built on barren lots, but inside the first gate, trees hold arthritic arms out from their sides and salt-stunted bushes droop over the crumbling asphalt. It’s a place you would expect to encounter deer and hawks--perhaps seals sunning on the rocks rising up from the shore. We walked through an open spit of land, the sea foaming on one side, a river of eel grass pouring toward the harbor on the other, until we reached a second, wrought iron gate: "Stop. No Trespassing."

One side of the entrance was open, but in spite of the smile and wave the woman exiting in a blue Mercedes offered us, we hadn’t the nerve. On the way back, I took this shot. A picture taken illegally somehow says it best.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Delayed Gratification Made Easy

It’s almost over, they are almost all gone—but here is what I waited for all summer. I promise you it’s worth the time. And, here’s the deal. The flavor was so deep, so sweet, that I’ll be buying tomatoes and basil all winter long to make this simple sauce.

Roasted Tomato Pasta Sauce

About 2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved
¾ cup of olive oil
1 large clove of garlic minced
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground pepper
¼ cup fresh basil leaves chopped
8 oz linguini or other long pasta

Heat the oven to 250 F. Line a rimmed sheet pan with aluminum foil. Toss together the olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper and add the tomatoes. Pour the tomato mixture on to the foil and flip the tomatoes with your fingers until they are all cut side down. Bake in the oven until the skin starts to crinkle and the tomatoes start to turn brown, approximately 1 hour. Scrape roasted tomatoes and oil into a bowl, cover and keep at room temperature. Cook linguini until al dente. Toss with cooked tomatoes and sliced basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Here’s the recipe I used as a jumping off point to make the sauce.

Roasted Tomato and Arugula Salad

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

You're Kidding, Right?

Our cat has stage-two gingivitis. This, we are told by the vet, might have been avoided had we brushed her teeth regularly. Yes, you read that correctly. Winkie, would you prefer Colgate, Crest, or all natural Tom’s of Maine? Secretly, well, not so secretly, I don’t mind going to the vet, because Doctor W., about fifteen years my junior, happens to be Greek God gorgeous. In truth, I’m a little intimidated by his gorgeousness, so that when he asked six months ago if I would consider brushing the cat’s teeth, I squeaked, “You are kidding, right?” instead of laughing out loud. Buddy, do you know this cat?

If you think I’m a coward, let me explain that it’s a two person operation each month when we clip our indoor cat’s claws. Besides, what self respecting feline is going to let an owner hold open her mouth and get in there with bristles? Aside from that, our cat, for want of a better term, is schizo--if I didn’t know we had her fixed I’d figure she’s hormonal. For about three weeks out of the month she purrs and rubs around my legs, flops on my lap when I sit on the sofa and exposes her belly. “All good,” she must think as she lulls me into a false security “I’ll toy with this one.” And then, on a day like any other when she’s soft and pliant and relaxed in my lap, she turns into a hunter, yowling as she stalks me with teeth and claws. It’s not pretty. And, let me add, it’s not fair.

Winkie came to us six years ago as a rambunctious kitty right from the shelter. She arrived with worms, fleas and a chronic kitty condition that manifested itself in her lungs, requiring a first, jaw-dropping visit to Dr. W. Since then, it appears as conjunctivitis, for which I have the honor of squirting antibiotic ointment into her eyes.

Our area is overrun with foxes, coyotes and other dangerous beasties, so she stays inside. I (note that operative word) altered her diet when she got too fat, clean her litter box often, bring her for all required shots and wellness checks, offer her dental treats for her teeth, and want nothing more than to treat her like one of the family. Except that, just when we think that’s possible, Winkie morphs into the kitty from hell. I’ve checked the Internet, interviewed the vet, followed instruction on how to react to a naughty girl, and if anything, this summer it got worse. By August, I had to lock her in the basement because she launched stealth attacks; throwing herself at me when I had my back to her, biting me hard in the legs.

In spite of the ugly vision of coyote lunch, the thought of accidentally leaving the screen door open seemed appealing; until I read a cat training guide that indicated our social kitty might change her behavior if ignored. Take care of her physical needs, it advised, food, water and litter box, but other than that, pay her no attention.

So for two weeks, Winkie and I were like sisters at war who had the misfortune to share the same bedroom. If she arrived in the kitchen and chatted at me, I walked to the family room. When she stalked over to the couch and announced she wanted to sit, I refused to look at her. When she tried to follow me down the hallway, I closed the door, and absurd as it seems after two weeks of this, that cat had a hurt look in her eyes. Feeling like a jerk, I started to acknowledge her again, a quick rub to her head when she approaches me at the computer, a rubdown when we get up in the morning. The scabs on the back of my legs have healed; she’s acted like a model cat for fifteen days. Nonetheless, we brought her back to the vet to make sure her behavior didn’t stem from a physical condition and now they are insistent that I stick a kitty brush on my finger, slide it in her mouth and rub. Once again and for the record, you have got to be kidding.

As I write today though, I’m recalling a time last winter when Winkie accidentally got locked in a linen closet. After a few hours of cat-less peace, I realized she was missing. She always comes when called, but this time nothing doing. Trying all the usual places, the unfinished portion of the basement, the laundry closet, under our bed--with mounting desperation we began searching outside, picturing kitty remains on the side of our busy street or pieces of fur drifting out in the woods. As panic grew, I heard a mew and opened the linen closet door. Eyes blinking after a long nap and arching her back, she looked up as if to say, “Daarling, you were looking for moi?”

You don’t have to say it. I’m going to have to drive to the vet to purchase a kitty tooth brush, aren’t I?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I’m not sure if today is perfect because we anticipate what is soon to come, or if today, contained within itself is, well, perfect.

This morning, fall whispered its notice in red leaves that scattered on the ground where we walked; acorns announce it at home as they ricochet from the oak, off aluminum gutters, down to the patio below. The cicadas rev their engines in the heat though the crickets’ mute their beat, as if in subduing themselves they’ll avoid the attention of the frost hovering in the distance. The sun burns but the angle is low—for short hours it warms over the pines, then too early, drops behind. In the garden purple spikes of Liatris age brown; industrious bees have moved on to red Sedum, bobbing at the top of the ledge.

As we get closer to the change of seasons, it is all one can do to perch like a cat in a patch of sun, listening as the breeze inhales in the woods, to draw a breath at the transparent wings of a dragon fly that rests on a jean clad knee, and push back a chair to catch the last of the afternoon sun.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

A Different Kind of Post

The white postal truck swung in one house beyond mine as I pulled into the driveway today, so I veered wide to our mailbox, yanked down the aluminum door and discovered an empty vessel--well, unless you want to include the Daddy Long Legs dancing multi-legged grand plies across the rusty bottom.

It happens sometimes that no mail arrives, which isn’t a bad thing. These days, a normal delivery contains a stack of the usual water, electric and mortgage bills, as well as window envelopes stuffed with unasked-for address labels or pens from non-profits soliciting donations--we get several of those a day. The standard gamut of junk turns up, department store flyers, credit card offers that we shred, catalogs, coupon envelops and fliers. It’s a good haul when a magazine to which we do subscribe appears. So rarely do we receive personal mail that when my husband checked the box on Saturday, I asked him if there was anything exciting, then muttered, “I don’t know why I’m asking--there’s never anything good.” I chuckled when he produced a palmer-method addressed envelope containing a belated anniversary card, but it’s uncommon to get a letter anymore.

Slapping together a half of a tomato sandwich, I pondered the loss of letter writing as a communication form. Scribbling on loose leaf paper or designer stationery was a primary means of entertainment for me, starting when I was sixteen. That year, my best friend moved away and our rotary-dial, land-line long distance calls weren’t covered by any national plan. I mitigated this loss of my BFF confidant, the same year that I moved up to high school, by pouring the day-to-day ordeal of it down on paper. I stuck a stamp on an envelope to her every few days.

After the next summer, when I stayed with her in her new town and bonded with her friends, my letter writing volume increased four-fold--these days, I'm quite sure we'd call it over the top. Worse even, was how I stalked the mailman in a torment of teenage angst, to my poor mother’s aggravation, stomping the seven stairs to my bedroom and slamming the door when the delivery arrived absent a letter for me. There were no inboxes to check, it was a twenty-four hour wait until the mailman returned. Even now I shudder when I think of my reaction to Sundays--the day of no mail and therefore no hope—a grueling test of my adolescent endurance.

During college summers evenings, I’d petal my bike home from my life guard job and write at least one letter to an out-of-state friend, sometime responding to letters received the same day. I even wrote to my now husband, then a “just a friend” who lived 45 minutes away, receiving witty responses in return. All this mail is now stacked into a file box down in our basement; evidence of life as it unfolded back in the days before Outlook, Gmail, Facebook and “tweets.”

Let's face it; if you don't write them, you don't receive them.The weaning from my full-time letter writing habit began with, ah, let’s see, the acquisition of a forty-hour-a-week job, a family, and to no surprise, the birth of email. The last vestige of my compulsion, hand written Christmas cards to over fifty people each year, shuddered, sighed and closed its eyes last December, as I gave in and typed a broadcast missive folded into thirds and placed inside each card I sent. I know credit is due for still sending holiday greetings, but that’s another story.

Encountering the empty box today though, it occurred to me that there’s little in today’s technology that mirrors the reward surrounding snail mail. With no back space key, no cut and paste, well--other than a manual version--a letter took thought, concentration and usually involved writer’s cramp. Between the time involved to write one and the mouth watering anticipation of return correspondence, we considered every missive, sent or received, meaningful.

Whether it was to a slot on the side of your house or a container on a rural route, either way mailboxes not only offered up contact from friends, but in addition, the thrill of job offers, contracts, college acceptances, wedding invitations, weekly newspapers and even contest winnings, many of which come on-line these days. Bills, taxes and sad news arrived too. But no matter, when the postman gunned his engine after stopping at our house, there was a feeling of optimism and expectation—the prospect that as you reached into the box, a treat could be in the offing.

So much arrives via computer now that for the most part, walking to retrieve the mail should be a chore. Which bills came today, which piece of junk can be thrown away? Yet, I still look forward to the mailman's arrival--today’s empty box caused a brief uneasiness. Email, Facebook, LinkedIn and even Middle Passages all keep me current with our loved ones, but when the mail truck's wheels spin on the sand at the bottom of my driveway, I always hop up to check the delivery. It doesn’t matter how rarely it happens--each day I smile at the rising anticipation, the possibility that something special may arrive.

Today, I’m disappointed to report, nothing did.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Week in Review

Hi all. No review this week. I've got another guest blog though, check it out:


My post appears below the short story contest guidelines and the YouTube video.

Happy Saturday.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Train of Thought

While I was growing up, our family owned one car. After sliding bowls of cereal across the drop leaf table to six kids, my mother would yank pin-curlers out of her graying hair, throw a raincoat over her nightgown and drive my father a mile to the train station where he’d catch the 7:40 commuter to Boston.

In the evening, when the whistle at the firehouse sounded at 5:45, she’d climb back into the car to pick him up. As little girls, my sister and I often took these evening trips with her. With no station building at our stop, the train discharged passengers on a narrow sidewalk in back of the one-story brick post office. When our mother pulled up front, my sister and I would hop out, running up the asphalt path along side of the building to wait by the tracks behind. There we’d stand on the hot tar listening for the high-pitched pinging of the rails to foretell the locomotive’s eminent arrival.

Stepping from one foot to the other--flinching as the engine spewed gravel at our legs, we’d grab an imaginary wire and jerk down as the train pulled in, signaling the engineer to blow the horn. Most days, he obliged us, and we’d jump into each others arms with our hearts slamming, never used to the decibels of sound. Then Dad would alight from a rusted metal step tucking his brown leather portfolio under his arm and pulling at his tie--we’d race to him, each grabbing an arm for a squeeze.

While we needed fingers in our ears up close, at our house the train horn was background noise, along with the church bells from St. Paul’s and the cars that swished down the two lane highway at the end of our street. But at my grandmother’s, two streets over from the tracks, china and glassware clinked in the cupboards when a train went by. We slept over often, waking in the middle of the night to car after car of long cargo trains racketing over the rails, vibrating our beds until the train passed.

Long ago, a network of tracks called the Old Colony Railroad decorated my current neighborhood south of Boston too. But in the late 1950’s the government failed to renew the rail right-of-way in a decision my father deemed politically motivated. As he told it, the mayor in the city of Quincy, the next city south of Boston, who somehow also held a state political position too, wanted to stop travelers from bypassing his city. My own research indicates that the rail line suffered financial hardship and the opening of the South East Expressway, a connector highway from points south into Boston, sounded the death knell for the train.

The truth is probably a combination of the two. Regardless, from 1959 to until this decade, South Shore residents struggled to get to Boston. Unless we lived in one of a few fortunate locations, travel to the city required an excruciating bus ride (via a now defunct service), a trip through several traffic filled miles to get to a crowded subway system, or stop-and-go travel with thousands of other cars on “The Expressway.” Those lucky enough lived near commuter ferries, considering themselves blessed to take this less congested water ride in spite of the long walk entailed to get many places after reaching the city.

After eons of debate and years of construction, the Old Colony rail line re-opened and once again the South Shore is serviced by train. In 2007 the ribbons were cut for our own Greenbush branch and now I can back out of my driveway and arrive at the station in five minutes--reaching the heart of the city in less than an hour. The tracks cut down the center of our tiny berg; residents are growing accustomed to peering down rail crossings—and adding extra minutes to cross town trips in case a train appears. At the library, from my customary seat by the window, I look up at each rumble, interrupting my work to watch the metal serpent slither down the tracks behind the trees.

We live in a “quiet” zone; the cars make little sound other than a serene click on the rails unless the engineer, in his discretion, deems it necessary. Once in a while from home, I hear a blare or two of the horn in the distance, and it always brings a smile. Perhaps at the station two skinny girls just pumped their arms and squealed at the blast, then ran pell-mell down the cement path into their father’s long arms.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

D-oubtful B-ut A-ctive

Like a dog that’s just emerged from a pond, I’m shaking summer off and following the scent--or in my case, sniffing out some work. I walked during July and August, that is, until my achy knee had other ideas. I blogged and wrote, sending two articles and one proposal off to the black hole of editor land. I gardened and baked and as “just in case” employment opportunities arose, applied for them but stopped regular trips to the outplacement office. My counselor took a vacation to France which offered the opportunity I needed to turn my back on my worries. For the last two months, I thought less about my future, and more about my daughter, my husband, and the guests that bookmarked the beginning and the end of the season.

Toward the hot last days of August though, an oversized clock began to tick on this career thing again while the optimism that colored June stepped into the quicksand of self-doubt. Forward momentum luffed its sails like a boat bobbing in the doldrums. In this state of mind, I dragged my feet into the outplacement office last week.

There is nothing like a knowledgeable, objective observer to guide you though career definition and fulfillment. This is why if you ever find yourself without employment but have been offered outplacement services, make sure to use them. Within an hour, the counselor had me smiling, and back on plan, which included an internal deadline.

So, now, I have a small business bank account with a DBA ("doing business as" name). There’s a business biography on my hard drive with my initials on the top listing services offered, as well as some snappy language for a future website. Business cards sit designed and ready for printing, though I haven’t ordered them because I want to make sure that they match a simple web page. After futzing around trying to understand how to build one of those via on-line vendors, I’ve sent an email to someone I will pay to help. (Oof, new business starts off in the red—oh well.) Once a website is close to up and running, I’ll pull the trigger on the business cards, update my LinkedIn profile, send an email to my network and perhaps even make an announcement here. With any luck I’ll develop some business. Oh, and this morning I slapped on a knee brace and got walking again.

Starting a freelance business is scary and daunting and not connected to anything I expected I’d be doing if you’d asked me a year ago. Last September the self-esteem deflating specter of unemployment was still one of those things that could never haunt me. All these months later, pockets of loss and disappointment remain. My husband though, can always boost my ego. When I emailed him to tell him I’d opened the bank account making my “business” official, he answered, “How does it feel to be President and CEO?”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

25 and Counting

You get this picture today because it's Tim's and my 25th (yep, count'em) wedding anniversary, and depending on how you see things, this path can be a symbol of how far we've come together, or how far we will yet go. Anyway you look at it, I'm grateful, and joyful I might add, that we're still walking.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Food Sox Connection

I am a Food Network fanatic. Actually, I’m better then I used to be back in the days when TV chefs weren’t mega stars and focused on teaching you to cook. Then, I watched fascinated, as Bobby Flay, Tyler Florence and Mario Batali demonstrated techniques and recipes to their audience. I even rode Emeril’s bandwagon until over-exposure made him tiresome. This channel so captivated me that years ago, unaware that shooting pains foreshadowed emergency surgery, I spent an entire Saturday on the couch, unable to eat but immersed, watching show after show.

Over the years the network has evolved into competitive prime time episodes like “Next Food Network Star,” and “Iron Chef.” These contests don’t compel me to watch as those early programs did, yet, when nothing else distracts me, I click them on, knowing that at any moment I can turn the TV off without worrying about missing the next installment. After all, I can search recipes on-line.

In the same manner my passion for cooking shows has evolved, so has my husband’s love for baseball. Having spent formative years in New Jersey worshiping the Mets, memorizing stats he can still quote for Bud Harrelson, Tom Seaver, and Tommie Agee, he’s now lived in Massachusetts long enough to support our home town team. (Though not in 1986—imagine living through that married to a Mets fan.) Most nights now though, if he has nothing pressing to do, he’ll click through the channels to the Sox. If it’s close he’ll watch; if it’s a blow out, he moves on.

So while our viewing habits are alike, the subject matter couldn’t be further apart and we struggle to find a middle ground. Like everyone who grew up in Red Sox Nation, I call myself a fan, but my interest doesn’t heat up until the end of the season; and though my husband enjoys what I cook, he has no desire to watch with me as I learn how.

As a result, here’s how things go at our house. If there’s a game on, I sit on the couch reading a book with, as my mother used to say, “one ear open.” When the announcer gets excited or my husband yells: “Yes!” I ask him what’s up. If, David Ortiz just hit a home run that puts the Sox ahead, I put the book down for a while. If Jacoby Ellsbury hits a double in a game we are clearly winning, I smile and keep reading. Similarly, if a cooking show is on, my husband grabs a magazine and sits down. When I mutter to the TV, “You’re kidding, right?” he’ll ask me what it’s about, and good sport that he is, doesn’t roll his eyes when I explain that someone just decided that shaved chocolate would taste good on lettuce. If they’re cooking with squash though, he usually leaves the room.

There are ways however, in which we come together. Play-off time for instance--when I put the book aside and focus, or with our teenage daughter, who hated baseball until she turned 10, and then became a fan. Possibly this had to do with winning the Word Series, but whatever the reason, now, if the Sox are on when she enters the room, she’s glued. She checks the newspaper for scores over a bowl of cereal and asks “What is going on here?” when for example; in the weeks after the All Star Break the Red Sox are stinking up the joint.

But she will also stop and watch when “Ace of Cakes” is on, commenting, “I love this show” or ask me what Giada is making on a Saturday afternoon. In this regard, both my husband and I have a committed partner with whom to experience our enthusiasms, which means that food and baseball become fodder for discussion over family dinners. Over supper, they update me on recent trades, and my daughter and I tell my husband that it was Melissa who won the final of the “Next Food Network Star.” We bond as a couple via this child whose tastes in entertainment are more complex then either of her individual parents.

Here though, is where my husband and I play on the same team. We were both disappointed when our daughter chose not to play softball, but agree that when she makes my aunt’s oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, she scores an out of the ballpark grand slam. Oh yes, and in our mutual sighs of relief that Food Network finales occur in July and not in October.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Week In Review

No words of my wisdom gained--a peaceful picture instead.

Webb Memorial State Park


Yesterday's post...

I wonder if by some super-secret X-ray means, my daughter’s oral surgeon knew my history of wisdom teeth extraction. Did someone whisper a heads up to him about the drill breaking in my mouth, the roots rapping themselves around a nerve causing damage that still exists today--the incision in my gum that bled all day, resulting in extra, non-Novocain stitches twelve hours after surgery--the world that spun and weaved and disappeared in a faint that required an extra hour’s observation before I could go home?

He must, somehow, have known all that when he sat across a mahogany desk from my daughter and me five weeks ago, laughing and teasing our girl about boyfriends, while drawing diagrams explaining the ease of the surgery these days. In his winsome, salesman voice, he persuaded us that the procedure would be quicker--not even an hour, the incisions smaller, the swelling less, the chance of infection or complication minimal--all this added to the bonus that our girl only had three of the offending molars to be removed. No kidding, we left the office smiling that day. “Piece of cake” we laughed to each other high-fiving. It is a wonder sometimes, how at my age I can still be so naive.

Here is what that charming, 6’7,” white-coated doctor did not mention. That I would deliver a rosy cheeked, smiling teen to the office first thing, and within an hour feel my stomach plummet as the nurse guided me to a hollow eyed, crooked faced girl who couldn’t talk because of the bloody gauze stuffed into her mouth. He failed to reveal the chance that I would drive that woozy child home hiccupping all the way--advanced notice that the anesthesia had disagreed with her and that she would vomit repeatedly for hours, unable to swallow pain medication for the oozing holes in her jaw. He didn’t talk about the shadows under her grey eyes, the tears that pooled after the last bout facing the toilet, or the hurt that would stab at her like daggers until the afternoon when she finally held the pain pills down.

He did not share that I would sit with her on the floor of our yellow-tiled 1950’s bathroom, reminded of how many times before I have held her hair back as she’s leaned over, or squinted at the gray stripe in the tile while dispensing midnight doses of antibiotics for ear infections, strep throat, bronchitis. That today, like so many of those other times, I would long to snatch the pain from her and swallow it, but instead, could only support her as she leaned her head into me, rubbing her back because that’s all there was to do other than to pray, “Please God, make her feel better.”

It was only a matter of hours, and she’s peacefully sleeping right now. Before she relaxed though, I saw an echo in her eyes of a tiny, jovial infant who’d never before felt pain. A baby who stared at me in wounded disbelief after I’d allowed the doctor to fill a needle and administer her first set of shots.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Glass Half Full

This week, I guess it’s a food blog because the positive side of unemployment is that I got out there all summer and watered and fertilized and now I’m in tomato heaven. I know, by next week it could be tomato hell. In the meantime, try these two recipes:

Tomato Sandwich with Basil Mayo*

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup purchased mayonnaise
1 clove garlic
1 tsp lemon juice
One tomato sliced warm from the vine
Two slices of rustic wheat bread

Chop garlic in a food processor. Add basil and pulse until finely chopped. Add mayonnaise and lemon juice and pulse to combine. Spread some of the mayo on each slice of whole wheat bread, top one piece of bread with the fresh sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, top with remaining piece of bread. Inhale.

* The leftover basil mayo may be used to brighten up any sandwich. We’ve used it on turkey and ham sandwiches, but my favorite, so far, is above.

I'm trying to make do with what we have and other than for milk, cut down on the extraneous trips to the grocery store during the week. So I was working from the cupboard, the refrigerator and thank goodness the backyard here. Last night, we were going out, I needed an easy supper, and Sunday’s lemon roast chicken that we had eaten in some variation three days in a row was not going to cut it. In the old days (aka when I had a job), I would have run out to pick up something quick to eat. As we know though, that’s not a wallet friendly option. This was.

Greek Style Pasta

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced into halves or quarters, depending on size
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (divided)
1/4 cup crumbled Feta Cheese
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata Olives sliced in half
8 oz dried linguine
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)**

Cook linguine in boiling salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a saute pan on medium heat until hot. Add onions and saute for one minute. Add garlic and saute until onions are tender. Add cherry tomatoes and chicken broth and simmer until broth is reduced by about half (about seven minutes). Add red wine vinegar and one tablespoon of the oregano and simmer two more minutes. Add cooked linguine, Feta Cheese, remaining tablespoon of oregano and Kalamata Olives to sauce in the pan and toss until all liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with pine nuts if using. Season to taste with salt (very little, olives are salty) and pepper and serve immediately.

** Pine nuts are optional because I forgot to add them. If you make this and include them, let me know me know how it tastes. We were fine without.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Pointing Out

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a lighthouse? I’ve pondered that thought since discovering The Word from Old Scituate Light, a blog about a family who moved into the keeper’s cottage at the lighthouse one town over. I can hear the young daughter chatting away with a friend. “Where do you live?” “Oh, down at the point.” “Which house?” “The one at the end; you know, the one with the tower attached?” I imagine her response to an English composition assignment: "What makes you special?" as something like, “I may be an regular kid, but there aren't too many people who live in a house like mine.”

Other than a power walk past it with a friend this summer, I hadn’t visited the lighthouse or the jetty lately. So yesterday, after lunch at our one of our favorite home cooking spots, in acknowledgement of the last day before school begins, my daughter and I drove the winding lane around the harbor to the lighthouse. Years ago my husband and I actually climbed the stone tower itself during an open house. Recalling that, I pictured iron steps leading up to a little girl’s circular bedroom, which of course is not the case; the house is attached to the tower, not a part of it.

Respectfully keeping my distance—the cottage is a home after all—imagination was the only thing traveling beyond the “Private Driveway” signs where orange kayaks and a white compact car resided. Finished in weathered grey shingles, bordered by a rock-lined garden blooming with fall mums, the keeper’s cottage stands New England stark and plain. Without the white tower stuck to its side, it would resemble a modest home like any other. Only to the left the teal blue Atlantic somersaults, and out front and to the right, granite jetties point like fingers to the channels and moorings of Scituate Harbor.

Wandering the public area, ankles giving as I picked my way over the sloping sea rock lawn, I mulled what it would be like to wake at dawn, surrounded by water on three sides as the fiery sun heaves itself over the horizon shelf, or, during the adventure of a fierce Nor’easter. I can hear the wind moaning and whistling around corners, the clank of the halyard on the flag pole out back barely audible over the crash of water hitting the jetty. We’ve visited the lighthouse after storms, when rocks and seaweed litter the parking lot behind it. The jetty and tower likely protect the keeper's quarters from the open sea, but there’d be little sleep during the relentless tossing and turning of an angry winter night.

Storms are only part of the story though. Someday, the little girl that lives in the house will be my age. Perhaps she’ll live in Iowa, or Kansas, surrounded by children who have never seen the ocean. Taking a deep breath, she’ll describe the rumble of lobster boats departing at sunup and the shriek of seagulls hanging suspended as they beat their wings against a strong east wind. Closing her eyes, once again she'll listen to rocks that clatter and tumble as the green sea recedes and have to yell to be understood over the boom of the waves. Her nose will wrinkle at the briny smell of seaweed at low tide, strong enough to taste. She'll witness the color of the sun, setting pink below the blackened outlines of the town across the harbor--the utter darkness at night as she peers out to the sea.

Lighthouses obviously mean a lot to me. What living circumstances inspire you?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Worth the Wait

Each spring, when I optimistically plant tomatoes into faux ceramic pots on my shady patio, I picture the ripe fruits chopped up for a salsa. If you have never tried fresh salsa, let me assure you that the taste is so far and beyond anything you can find jarred on the shelf that it well worth a little extra effort.

With my salsa in mind, I plant cilantro in a window box attached to the green railing around our cellar hole, though each year it grows too rapidly and droops well past the bolting stage by the time one tomato ripens. No worries. It’s worth the mouthful of flavor I get when I pluck a leaf and give it a chew, and a few chopped blossoms tossed into to a marinade for pork or fish always add to the party. This May, I went all out and planted jalapenos beside the tomatoes in the pots. As expected at this point, the cilantro looks like yellow straw hanging down from the window box but the tomatoes and jalapenos grew right up together. A quick trip to the grocery store for some fresh cilantro yesterday and we were good to go.

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Homemade Lime Tortilla Chips
No additives, no preservatives. Just yum


Pick all the ripe cherry tomatoes you can find off the vine (2 cups)*
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp red onion minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
*Alternatively, use three or four medium (fist sized) tomatoes of your choice, seeded and chopped.

Using a serrated knife cut the tomatoes in half or in quarters depending on size. Mix with the six following ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. For extra spicy salsa, leave the seeds in the pepper. This recipe makes a pretty soupy salsa. For a drier salsa, let it sit for about a half an hour at room temperature for the flavors to meld, then pour salsa into strainer to release the juice before returning to your serving dish. Hmmm, I never thought of this before. Next time I might preserve the liquid and mix it with olive oil for a Mexican salad dressing.


Three small (8 inch) whole wheat tortillas
Cooking spray (or olive oil)
2 Tbsp lime juice
Kosher Salt

Preheat oven to 425.
Cut each tortilla into eight wedges and place on cookie sheet. Spray each wedge lightly with cooking spray (or sprinkle with olive oil). Brush lime juice onto each wedge and sprinkle with kosher salt. Bake in the center of the oven for five minutes watching closely until the edges start to brown and chips are crispy. Serve with salsa.