Tuesday, June 29, 2021

End of June garden notes

 The marigolds I started from seed to serve as a kind of living mulch have surpassed all my expectations. I never knew marigolds could grow so big and tall and lush. Butterflies seem to love the flowers; I saw another species yesterday and took some pictures.

Planting all these marigolds under and around my tomato plants instead of mulching really seems to have worked out. The only pests I've had to deal with were a few hornworms, which I caught early and picked off before they had a chance to do much damage. A close inspection of every plant every day really pays off. 

I've been weighing the tomatoes as we pick them and keeping a log of their productivity (and taste) for future reference. So far we've harvested 11 Celebrity tomatoes with a combined weight of just over 5 pounds. I knew they would likely be first, and that they would taste okay but without the richness of heirlooms and later varieties. I planted them for earliness and quantity, and so far I've been pleased with them. They still have lots of green unripe fruits coming along. One surprise is that we've already gotten 4 Brandywines totaling 2 pounds. These are the tomatoes I've been most excited about, and for good reason. The flavor is outstanding, rich and fruity and complex. We also tried the first two Red Beefsteak last night. The flavor was so-so, not as rich and complex as the Brandywines but it did have one advantage: thick meaty fruits without very many seeds. If it proves to be productive it might be a good choice for canning in the future. Speaking of canning tomatoes, I have one San Marzano tomato plant which has produced a few of its paste-type fruits, but the plant has been spindly and weak almost from the beginning. I took a cutting from it and have started another one to give it a fair shot, but if the smaller one proves to be as wispy and  unproductive as the first, I won't be growing it again. We're still waiting on ripe tomatoes from German Queen (lots of big beautiful fruits coming), Mr. Stripey (a few fruits are still ripening on it) and Bonnie's Centennial (loaded with big, almost-ripe tomatoes). I'll report back on how they taste later on. Oh, and one other plant is filling up with tomatoes. I bought it as a seedling and it was supposed to be a Husky Cherry Red, but was obviously mislabeled. The clusters of tomatoes on it are much bigger than cherries so I have no idea what it could be, but it is a sturdy, low growing bush. We shall see!

My cucumbers are barely producing anything. I'm not sure why, since there are lots of flowers and the bees love that area of the yard. They're planted beside the cantaloupes which have also been flowering like crazy. We have several small cantaloupes slowly ripening right now--I can't wait to taste one!

The jalapenos are doing really well. I'm leaving most of them unpicked for now so they'll have a chance to turn red. After that I'll be pickling some of them and maybe making salsa with the rest.

Also, some of you may remember that I potted up an ornamental pomegranate into a big concrete planter. Well, it's been blooming up a storm in the past week or two! Too bad the fruits are ornamental. I had lots of blossoms on my regular pomegranate this year, but they all fell out and didn't develop fruit. I'm not sure why--possibly they bloomed too early for pollinators to get at them. That's not the case with this ornamental, though. Not only do we see bees all around it, but yesterday we saw a  hummingbird sipping from one flower after another!

That's most of the news from the garden right now!

Saturday, June 26, 2021

First harvest

Here are some photos of what I've harvested over the past two or three days. The garden is finally starting to pay off!

BLTs for supper tonight made with the very first Brandywine tomatoes...

Wednesday, June 23, 2021


Cooler weather and rain swept into the area on Monday. After more than a week with everything baking in the hot summer sun from dawn to dusk and a mild drought still in effect, it was a very welcome relief. So far this summer I've learned that water from a hose can't compete with a good drenching rain for making a garden happy. Watering will keep the plants alive during the hottest part of summer, but rain makes them thrive. I'm beginning to harvest the earliest tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, parsley, and basil. The indeterminate heirloom tomatoes and the cantaloupes are coming along nicely. Then there's all the flowers I planted as a living mulch, the marigolds and nasturtiums. They're blooming like mad.

                            Painted Lady Butterfly (Vanessa cardui) and marigold blossoms.

I've been spending a great deal of time outdoors these days, even when it's hot. It's a pleasure to be off work and enjoying the garden, the porch, and the neighborhood at my leisure. This morning when we were out walking George one of our neighbor's cats came out to be petted. She's sensible enough to wait for Gregg to walk on ahead with George before trotting over to say hi. (George can't be trusted around cats, unfortunately). She's a sweet little creature.

I've only left home in the past week to go to the farmer's market or to the grocery store. Yesterday I cleaned and organized my pantry, tossing expired foods (thankfully there wasn't much of that) and rearranging stuff nearing it's expiration date so that it's closer to hand. I'm thinking about buying some bulk fruits and vegetables at the market (things I don't grow, like peaches and sweet corn) and then freezing and canning them for winter use. Everything is so good right now, at the peak of the season, and the prices are as affordable as they're going to get. I haven't canned anything in years, but I have all the equipment I need to do so. Having all this free time helps.

Today I mowed the lawn to surprise my husband. I can't wait until he gets home from work and sees it! We got a new mower this summer and it's much easier to use than the old one, plus our yard is small. It felt good to be working (and even sweating) outdoors. I've lost a few pounds from the extra exercise and I'm getting very brown from the sun. So far it's been an excellent summer.

Saturday, June 19, 2021


I've met our new neighbors! I forgot to mention it, but a week or so ago I walked over and introduced myself, a gift from a local bakery under my arm.

I had a hard time picking something out for complete strangers, but ended up settling for a strawberry pound cake. It didn't require refrigeration, and was likely to remain fresh for longer than something like a cookie assortment. In a perfect world, I'd have baked them something, but since plenty of people would hesitate to eat something prepared by a stranger (I might) I felt like a sealed bakery offering would be better for a first introduction.

The neighbors turned out to be a thoroughly lovely young couple named Bruce and Mary Catherine! They seemed genuinely touched that I stopped by to welcome them and were very friendly. Although they invited me in, I could see that they were still trying to get unpacked, so after a brief chat on the front porch I excused myself and left them to it. I couldn't be much more pleased. They're very young, have nice manners, and seem happy with their new house. 

I hope they feel welcomed to the neighborhood, and I hope they liked the cake!

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Sweet relief, and a garden update

I have a functional neck again! Hooray! When I saw my doctor on Tuesday she gave me a shot in the hip (cortisone, I think) as well as prescriptions for a muscle relaxer and a week's worth of prednisone pills. That night I got my first decent night's sleep in almost a week. That's medicine in itself.

Yesterday morning I started taking the prednisone. I know that oral steroids can cause major problems for people who have to take them long term, but for occasional use they're like a wonder drug. For me, at least. I felt like I'd had a small dose of speed, and combined with the easing of the neck pain and the comfortable night's sleep, I felt good yesterday. I gave the kitchen a fairly thorough cleaning and mopping, dusted a couple of rooms in the house, watered the garden, and then made it to book club to see my friends! 

Marian was hosting this month, and she has a pool, so we wore our swimsuits and had our meeting out there. And that felt positively heavenly. Floating on my back in the cool, cool water was almost as good as a massage for my poor tense muscles. It's a salt water pool, too. I felt so relaxed and comfortable when I left that when I got home we took George for a leisurely late walk around the neighborhood. Another restful night's sleep and now I feel like a new woman. Oh, the relief!

I'll leave you now with some recent pictures of my garden, which is growing like gangbusters. Today I'll pick my first vine ripe tomato (dozens more will be coming along shortly), and I've already had two or three cucumbers and lots of peppers. So far there are at least 6 baby cantaloupes growing and the bees love those flowers so I'm expecting even more. My first garden at this house has been a delight so far!

Cantaloupe vines climbing our repurposed wood trellis:

The first baby melon!

French marigolds I started from seed. 

I plucked a "sucker" from my San Marzano tomato plant and started another one. 

Tomato heaven.

Nasturtium flowers started from seed, now growing happily around the base of the banana plants.

Shhh! Don't tell anybody! These pond plants are illegal to sell or have around here because they can be invasive. A friend of Gregg's gave him these from his little backyard pond. Of course we're responsible people and would never allow them to end up in a local waterway. And aren't the flowers pretty? The dragonflies, frogs, birds and squirrels love this little container pond too--we're providing drinking water to the wildlife!

The first tomato, plucked this morning. It weighed in at just over half a pound.

The cucumbers on this salad came from my garden yesterday.

Finally, a few jalapenos I plucked yesterday. I've started slicing them in half, filling them with soft cream cheese, and wrapping them in bacon. Jalapeno Poppers for the grill! 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Book review: The Silent Patient

While I sit here and wait to go to my 2:30 doctor's appointment, I thought I'd pass the time by writing a quick review of my book club's selection for June: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.

First, a brief synopsis from Goodreads.

The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman’s act of violence against her husband—and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive.

Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.

Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.

Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....

I'm impressed that this is the author's first book. Everyone kept saying that the "twist" at the end was shocking and that you'd never be able to figure it out. That turned out to be 100% true! I was trying hard to figure it out while I read (and came up with some crazy theories) but I wasn't even close. The reveal was so well done that you're literally in the middle of a sentence when it all falls in place and it's a giant WTF?! moment. And it's a particularly nasty twist, too. It hits like a punch to the gut. It made me uncomfortable, to be honest, and a friend I spoke to yesterday said it made her so uncomfortable that she just couldn't like the book despite how well done it was. I'll be interested to see what the rest of the group thought. We have our meeting tomorrow night.

Dr. Spo might well be interested in The Silent Patient because of the relationship between Alicia and her psychotherapist, Theo, and how his story runs parallel to hers. I kept thinking of him as I read it. If you're interested, it's a quick and entertaining summer read, especially if you enjoy psychological thrillers and mysteries, and I'd lay wagers on the fact that you won't see the ending coming. Disturbing or not, it was good fun and I thought it was a nice choice for book club.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Oh, the pain.

 Yorkshire Pudding's comment on my last post proved to be oddly prescient. He said, "Don't celebrate too much or you might pull a muscle! " Well, we didn't get much chance to do any celebrating because I've somehow pulled a muscle in my neck and this is a wholly new experience in muscle pain for me. This thing HURTS.

I have a pre-planned doctor's appointment tomorrow but I called this morning to ask if they could squeeze me in today. No good. I almost cried when they said they were too booked up to see me. Then I put out a group text to my book club friends, asking if anyone had a muscle relaxer they could give me. My pal Kathleen, who lives close by and is working from home, brought over two different muscle relaxer medicines for me to choose from---bless her! I've already taken one along with a large dose of Motrin so here's hoping I have a better afternoon (or at least fall asleep and get some rest). Sleep has been nearly impossible the last two nights. There's no comfortable way to position my head, and even swallowing hurts. Who knew that even swallowing spit flexes muscles in your neck?! Not me, that's for sure.

So the last couple of days off with my husband have been ruined. He's been so sweet, and so worried about me, and I feel so bad that a day trip we had planned isn't going to happen. And I know I'm no fun to be around at the moment. 

This stinks. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

A Very Special Day

Today is our 15th wedding anniversary! Yay us! :)

I'm so grateful for my husband and the life we've built together. There's so much love and genuine friendship our marriage. I am one lucky woman, and I know it.

Gregg took the next few days off so we can be together and celebrate, so I probably won't be online much. I'll be back sometime next week--in the meantime, have a wonderful weekend, friends!



Thursday, June 10, 2021


It's not easy being a people-pleaser. 

When you grow up afraid of confrontation and conflict, and spend all your time and energy trying to be as accommodating and "nice" as possible to avoid it, you set yourself up for a lifetime of stress and heartache and feeling let down. No one respects a doormat. Even worse, your self-respect takes another hit each time you fail to stand up for yourself. 

Somehow it's taken me getting to the age of 46 years old to realize this is one of the big life issues I'm going to have to address. I'm trying to speak up for myself more, advocate for myself more, demand better treatment from others. It's going about as well as one would expect.

This all started last fall when I finally set some firm boundaries with my parents. For those of you reading who aren't regular readers, let's just say we have a fraught history. Growing up with emotionally abusive bullies (my mother) and alcoholics (both parents) is mostly what got me here in the first place. 

Since I've been thinking about boundaries with them so much in the last several months, gradually I've started to think more about other situations where I need to advocate for myself. Work being the main one. I'm trying to do better, but it's so hard. Things kind of came to a head for me earlier this week.

I was (yet again) doing the work of three people (who were goofing off, as usual) when I got a request to take on yet another task that involved lots of complicated calls home to parents. I simply couldn't do it. I was already juggling too much to even get a lunch or a bathroom break!  So I sent the AP back an email saying simply "It's not possible for me to take this on right now. I'm overwhelmed with all the work I have at the moment. I am sorry." I felt proud of myself for setting that boundary, but then............

...later in the afternoon I got called into the Principal's office for a conference with him and with the AP who had made the request, and she was furious with me. So pissed she wouldn't even look at me! Then the Principal said that the "tone" of my email to her had been "rude" and it read like I was "refusing to do what my supervisor asked me to do". I was stunned. 

But I'm proud of how I handled myself. For once in my life I didn't start to tear up and choke up.  I calmly said that if my tone had come across as rude, and if it seemed that I was "refusing" to do what she asked, that that wasn't my intention and I was sorry if I had given that impression. Then I calmly went on to explain what my workload looks like and exactly the reasons for it (without naming names, although there was no need. They have eyes). I made a gentle suggestion: in the future, if they have tasks they need help with so urgently, maybe it would be a better idea to ask the people who always seem to have so much more free time than I do. I smiled.

At that point the Principal hastily ended our little "conference" and I went back to my desk. I was proud of myself for standing up for myself, even in such a small way!

One more day until sweet summer freedom. I'm really looking forward to the break this year.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Next week can't come fast enough

 A week from tomorrow is the last day of school. For the first time in the four years I've worked there, I'm feeling dissatisfied with my job and eager to get away from it for a few weeks. Yesterday morning was particularly stressful. Just like every day in the last few months, I was doing the job of three people (at least) while those particular people were hanging out in each others' offices, gossiping and laughing loudly from behind their shut doors, having a seemingly grand old time and not so much as lifting a finger to answer the phone.

The day had already gotten off to a bad start. Due to a "miscommunication" one of the assistant principals went off on me for something that wasn't my fault. (The "miscommunication" was that she hadn't bothered to read an email that went out to the staff a few days prior. I forwarded it to her again to show her that I had done the right thing. That really seemed to piss her off....like I wasn't respecting her authority enough!). It was really upsetting. I'm one of the few truly conscientious people up there and it hurt my feelings that she treated me the way she did. And then this happened:

Although thankfully, she wasn't around when I cried. But I'm sure she noticed later because my face gets puffy and red and my eyes go bloodshot and swollen at the first hint of tears. Also, if anyone out there knows of some method to stop yourself crying when you need to hold it in for a while, please, please drop a comment below and tell me about it. I hate crying at work or in front of other people more than almost anything!

Then the rest of the day was just me feeling excluded (which is typical) by the other office people and of course left to do others' jobs while they f*cked around and socialized. I was so discouraged by it all. I've complained to the principal a couple of times about some of the behaviors that directly impact me, and he'll go set things right in the moment, but nothing ever changes. I suspect that he hates confrontation and managing conflict, and while I understand it (and appreciate what a nice guy he is) that's not a good quality in a leader. 

I'm far from alone in my dissatisfaction at the school, and the lack of accountability among the staff is the number one problem, in my opinion. I think the principal is thinking of moving on, anyway. He's finishing up a doctorate in December, and one day he quietly handed me a letter and asked me to scan it through to his email. It was a letter of recommendation to another school district. (It doesn't escape me that he chose me and not his secretary to do that for him. He knows I won't mention it). 

Whatever, but I'm so sad that the school job that I love is being tarnished like this. I've begun casually looking at openings elsewhere in the district, and I'm thinking of moving on. It would be nice to make more money, anyway.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021


I had a bad day at work. 

Because of that, I'm treating myself to a G&T, macaroni and cheese for dinner, a Netflix binge, and this: 

Tomorrow's another day.