around the garden

Click on any photo to bigify.


heat wave

We’re still in the heat for another day or so.  Around 90°F (32°C) today again.   Early this morning I walked through our fairly shaded neighborhood to a post box and noticed that the breeze was coming from the west, which is good news.

Over the last few days, any wind was coming from the south, as in Desert Southwest, where the hot air has been parked.  When the wind comes from the west, it means the air is coming from the ocean currents, bringing cooler air, instead of the hot air from the overheated interior land mass.

Desert Southwest:  that's HOT!

Desert Southwest: that’s HOT! (46°C)

Yaaaay.  Subdued I am by the heat and by the efforts to keep the house cool.  I was never meant to live in the heat, but my years in Tucson taught me how to manipulate air currents, curtains, sun blocks, fans, and swamp coolers.    (And, of course, now I have my portable air conditioner.  Thanks, Ma!)

It always helped that I was outdoors despite the 100-deg heat.   Often in the 9,000-ft mountains above Tucson, tootling up the switchback road in the red 1965 VW convertible Bug, always getting a vapor lock after we’d hit some cool elevation.  <:-D

gigantic red sunflower

gigantic red sunflower

One October, I moved directly from Tucson to Anchorage, and as I paused at the top of the mobile stairway parked next to the plane, seeing the mountains and ocean that surrounded the city, I knew soul-deep I had come home.   True that I panicked slightly at the 45°F (7°C) temp that greeted me.

That winter I learned about cold, with a stretch of two weeks of -20°F (-28°C).  I brought with me the love and need to be outdoors and discovered that I loved to be outdoors in the cold:  camping, skiing, mountaineering.  I will always know how to live in the cold with little thought or strained effort.

my happy Alaska place at my dresser

my happy Alaska place at my dresser

happy in the mountains at 10°F!  A Raven friend.

happy in the mountains at 10°F! A Raven friend.




Dear Ma, Thanks for the air conditioner!

a rose for Ma

a rose for Ma

We’re enduring a very humid heat wave.  Ugh.  I left Arizona eons ago and hate heat!  The humidity is an unwelcome bonus.

But Mom gave me a fabulous air conditioner for my 50th birthday some years ago.  The a/c saved my sanity then and now.  Probably saved Big Mister’s sanity because it saved mine.  If you get my drift.

Thanks, Ma!

magic food finger

Our blue-eyed BuddyBoop, whose name has migrated to such sobriquets as Ooper and OopityBoopity, is a wee bit cross-eyed.  He stands by his full food bowl and looks up at Big beseechingly and often mewls once quietly:  “Oh Monkey-Boy, I’m still a starving kitten and the food bowl is empty.”

Big has learned to stir the food with his Magic Food Finger.  OopityBoopity indicates his gratitude and has a snack out of the newly-filled bowl.

If the Magic Food Finger is not employed in the evenings, the 15-pounder jumps on me as I sleep and then stands on me.   The pain of focused pounds per square inch exerted by four cat paws cannot be underestimated.

BuddyBoop the Marshmallow

BuddyBoop the Marshmallow

chocolate gingerbread

Happy Sunday (breakfast?!)!

A little quick baking late yesterday–a very easy chocolate gingerbread cake.  Spicy, chocolatey aroma, and not overly sweet.

chocolate gingerbread

chocolate gingerbread

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

(adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine – December 2008)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare bundt pan–nonstick spray or butter and flour.  (With a dark cake, I prefer to dust the buttered pan with unsweetened cocoa powder, so the light-colored flour doesn’t mar the appearance of the crust.)


1 cup hot coffee
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1-1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda

3 large eggs
1/2 cup dark molasses

2 cups all purpose flour (10 oz) (I used 1/2 cup whole wheat flour and 1-1/2 c white.)

*powdered sugar for dusting

In a small bowl, stir coffee and cocoa powder until smooth – set aside.

Cream butter, oil, and sugar until it is nice, white, and fluffy (it should look like whipped cream) for 3 minutes using a mixer.

Add ginger, cloves, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda.

Add eggs and molasses – mixing for a minute.

Finally add flour and coffee/chocolate mixture and beat for a few minutes.

Scrape batter from all sides including the bottom and mix again for another minute.

Pour batter into a bundt pan.

Bake for 60 minutes.  Allow cake to cool for 8 minutes before shaking the sides loose and inverting it onto a cake plate.

Dust cake with powdered sugar.


I think we’re sposta let the cake cool, but we didn’t!  Sliced it with a bread knife.  It was wonderful hot and the rest of the cake didn’t fall apart!


Also, I was not careful in my attribution, so one thousand apologies to the original source.  We know it’s from Bon Appetit, but I don’t know who adapted it!  Surely, I shall now go to publications hell.

four springtimes for my lilac to recover

When we bought our house in April 2008 (OK, rented it from the bank), the front yard was tidy:

front grass yard 2008

front yard grass 2008

In February 2010, I was made redundant and went to town on the front yard, working fast and hard for several months because I knew I’d be back to work in no time (that didn’t happen):

after the sod cutter:  bye-bye grass!

after the sod cutter: bye-bye grass!

Near the front wheel of that purple bicycle is the scraggly lilac that had languished in a pot for years.  The roots were terribly pot-bound.  <:-{

Note in the picture above that Big Mister had already built the pergola for me, seen here (in a blast from the past digression) using the manly-man machine:

Big Mister and the Augur

Big Mister and the Augur

monster machine

monster machine

We now return from our digression.

In the chill of March 2010, I started transplanting from my root-bound pots right away, after hauling cubic yards of soil all round that 900 square feet:

first year garden

first year garden

first year coming along

first year coming along: the scraggly, transplant-shocked lilac is vaguely under the purple bicycle. (That window to the right of the red-flowering shrub became the viewing spot from my recuperation room.)

Ah, the garden grows in a bit:

second year garden (?)

second year (?) garden, with bowling balls atop rebar as hose guides.

[I’d already painted the (unlovely) front door orangey-red, too, which helped!]

Standing on a ladder at the front sidewalk:

front yard "aerial" view

front yard “aerial” view

The lilac still was unhappy last year:

turns out, the lilac does hate me!  it only has ONE blossom!

it only had ONE blossom!

I had a plan when I planted the lilac at the top of the garden:  I wanted that fragrant, shade-providing view to be near the front door so that my steps would be slowed by the scent and the sight.

The lilac and I have a lot in common.  Once we have room to breathe, leave us to get ourselves untangled and we start to blossom.

This spring, right now:

lilac near the front step

lilac near the front step

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac anchors its bed 2013

lilac blossoms once again!

lilac blossoms once again!

[there’s the front door orangey-red (poppy!) with a great glass-fronted storm door.]


Fourteen years!

For you, Big Mister:

everything's better with cake!

everything’s better with cake!

lawyers, guns, and music

Friday afternoon, Big Mister arrives home from work, tired both because he worked hard all week and because he is fighting this season’s Weird I Want to Lie Down Right Now Cold.

Right about then, I got a surge of inspiration to go back to the art table, which would make it twice in one day–unheard of!   Of course, had to change clothes because I always get paint on myself.  Stopped by the laundry nook and–no. no. no!–there was water on the floor around the washer and near the hot water heater.

Well, hell, right now I’m not the most flexible tool in the crayon box, so did an unfocused Eddie Izzard dance–go to the art table there or clear up the mess and further investigate here.  Boing-boing.   Rats-buttocks, will have to stay with the watery-doom mess.

{Aggggghhh, I have a tiny window to give myself the gift of art and I have to do this?!  (Yes, self-centered, thankyouverymuch!)}

Kind of moaning to Big about the water–he had only been home 10 minutes and was sitting finally–how unfair!  He sat for a few more minutes, no doubt grumbling inside his head as would be correct, then came over to the wetness, sighed, and said he was going to need music for this.

From the CD player came Warren Zevon, a singer/songwriter (plus conductor!) with a macabre bent I became familiar with in the late 1970s, with songs like Werewolves of London and titles stranger still.  He would have understood Edward Gorey well, maybe collected his art.

Just that morning, I had paused with my coffee, wondering if I should go turn on a CD and see what would happen, if I’d have room for Baroque chorale along with the computer and coffee-sipping.  Nope.  Move along, nothing to see here.  14 months removed from my music….

After I’d done basic cleanup, Big did the heavy lifting to get the machine torqued out of its tiny corner to sit on the back porch.  We figured to let the water show itself from either the washer or water heater, so I returned to my starting place and fiddled with Art.   Big once more got to sit down.

Suddenly, I looked up at Big where, eyes round with surprise, he was grinning at me:  in time to the music, I had, unknowingly, been dancing in my chair, arms waving, maybe singing along!  Long astonished gaze.  Promptly burst into tears of relief so great that only a release like a champagne cork improperly removed would do.

Warren Zevon, “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” from his 1978 album, “Excitable Boy.”  The refrain is:

I’m an innocent bystander
Somehow I got stuck
Between a rock and a hard place
And I’m down on my luck
Oh yea, I’m down on my luck
Oh yea, I’m down on my luck
Oh baby, I’m down on my luck
I’m so far down, I don’t think I’ll ever get up
If it weren’t for bad luck
Oh if it weren’t for bad luck
I wouldn’t have no luck at all

Maybe I’ve graduated to the fancy crayon box with the built-in sharpener?!

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty

Writing from the Edge: The Goddess of Plenty.

I love this blog.  Just do.

Here is how Lorely, an evocative writer from the Wild West Coast of Ireland, captures this particular blog post:

I looked around my own small patch of earth, my generous share of the goddess of plenty’s gifts, with all its plants – flowers – beauty – healing and power.

It is all given to us, I thought, in infinite variety – to see, to hold, to use, to pleasure our senses, to heal our bodies, to quiet our minds, and – as is the way with the earth – everything links into everything else, but it is up to us how we use it, how we see those connections.

So – I pondered – let’s do it – let’s look at the bounty around us, admire it, celebrate it, share it and spread it around.

(She is celebrating her one-year blog anniversary by giving away something very special.)

For her, I add a photo of the twisted willow in my yard, Salix tortuosa.

the healing willow tree

This lady leads a rich life–she shares about gardens, dogs, Napoleon, cats, skinny dipping (!)….  wait–here’s a screen shot of her tags/categories!

Go on.  Off with you.  Go visit and stay awhile.

Oatmeal Cocoa Cookies by The Goodie Plate (blog)

The Goodie Plate stopped by here one time after I’d posted something or other I’d baked.  (I can’t remember what it was and it doesn’t really matter.)

The cookies in the title are very, very good!  I didn’t bake all the dough when I mixed it up a couple of weeks ago, so stored it in the fridge for spontaneous cookies, which we had today.  By the by, I’d limit the fridge storage to 1 week and freeze otherwise.

The cookies are topped with ganache that was made with soy milk and not cream!  The whole recipe is healthy!  How’d they do that?!

Go visit them–I bet you find something you’d enjoy!

what did you do to my food bowl, Monkey-Girl?!

Look fella.  If you hadn’t done one of those sweeping-in-an-arc vomits on the very old rag rug, said vomit that included 15 unchewed cat food bits, you could have continued in the food-bowl-on-the-train-placemat configuration.

Instead, for gobblers:

BuddyBoop’s library

BuddyBoop was kinda freaked out by the rocks in his food bowl, so I took one out and…

Lucky Calpurrnia

(It is true that I chose the books carefully.)

(It is also true that Big Mister had to spend time petting BuddyBoop at his food bowl (Buddy’s, not Big’s) to try to reassure him that there was still food in that thar bowl.)

Our thanks to nadbugs who has made the food bowl a zen garden!

domesticated goddess

Ah yes, that’s me.

My favorite gloves got thin and holey and have been living in the mending drawer for two+ years.  I have a little (quiet) time on my hands (so to speak), so have been mending (it has come to this?!).

Before, thin and holey:

they walk all over me all-over!

After, fleece for the fingers:

adding my own warmth!

Fleece finger pads attached with white glue.  After the glue dried, I used a blanket-stitch to make ’em stay.  For each finger, I placed my mother’s mother’s thimble into the end to use as a darning egg.  I don’t own a darning egg because that would imply mending.

Which must mean that my mending drawer is actually a collection of cloth.

arrrggggh I did it to him again…

Yesterday, I took a tumble off a ladder to the concrete floor in the garage.   I fell into about the only blank place on the garage floor except for smacking one arm into the giant steel scooter carrier.

steel scooter carrier (L); steel motorcycle engine (center); cast iron sink (R)
I only hit the scooter carrier. How is that possible?

I was extremely lucky:  the only reason I didn’t break my arm when it hit the thing is that the arm smacked parallel to the long lines of the thing.  The bruises are coming along nicely.

pretty colors!
Using forensic evidence, I deduce that I flattened my twisted arm against the scooter carrier. Can’t believe I didn’t break it. Or my head!

I didn’t even hit my head; I’m a little disappointed:  maybe it would have shaken up some of the fog and forced it out my ears.

I also didn’t break the heavy-duty electric stapler, which I’d left at the top of the ladder.  Thank-the-whole-Universe that it wasn’t in my hand!  Can you imagine the plunk-plunk-plunk-plunkety-plunk of an out of control electric stapler?!

I learned something:  I do scream spontaneously at the top of my lungs when I’m falling uncontrolled to a hard concrete floor and wondering what garage stuff I’m about to slam into.

Big Mister learned something, too:   From all the way in the house, he can hear me scream!

Sorry ’bout that, Big.  I’m so sorry you had to find me in a heap on the garage floor, preceded by hearing the screaming.  Egad.  (Happy 14 years!  Look, I didn’t screw it up:  I’m alive!  Again!  Bonus points!)

Well, back I go to the garage in a few minutes, where I will stay, feet on the ground and look at pretty pictures or somethin’ safe!

For more pretty colors, go see Kathy McCullough’s post about her tumbling down the narrow, steep stairs in her 100-year-old house.  She made those stairs into art.  I could mosaic the floor in some way…  hmmmm….  Maybe just sidewalk chalk drawings!  I know!  A chalk-person outline!  har har har!



Cupid stops in: An Odd Ode to Big Mister

Cupid:  Hello you, two.  Since you’re so comfortable together, surely your first fabulous meeting 14 years ago would be a good story to tell.  You met when you were in your 40s, correct?

Him and Her:  Uh, yeah.

Cupid:   So, tell us!  We’re excited to hear!

Him:  My friend Robin, the 70 y.o. Master of the tugboat Joe had met her recently.  One day during the annual Maritime Fest, she came into the 100+ y.o. wheat warehouse that housed the local working waterfront maritime center, and Robin and I happened to be standing together.  He nudged me.

Robin:  She has a kayak.

Him:  I introduced myself to her.

Her:  Can’t remember a thing.  It was the morphine, I think.

Cupid:  Uh,  OK.   What happened next?

Her:   I was attending volunteer meetings at that 100-y.o. dock building.  He had been volunteering for eons and was at those meetings.  I was definitely put off by him because  at every damn volunteer meeting, he was a crab-ass and smelled of beer.  I ignored him successfully for six months.

Him:  She didn’t talk to me and seemed pretty crabby.  I remember that she was always wearing those long skirts with those long sweaters over them and I wondered what she had on under there.

Her:  You did?!   Sheesh!  It was cold in there!

Him:  Oh yeah….

Cupid:   OK, OK, enough of that.  Did you actually talk?

Her:  Not when I could avoid it, and I was good at that!  I didn’t talk much back then–I’d just uprooted my life of 16 years, plus I was on the morphine, so I wasn’t interested in talking particularly.

One time he came into the only warm room in the whole giant building, a teeny pilot house–maybe 8 feet by 10 feet.  I was there keeping warm, getting ready to go home after my volunteer shift.  It went something like this:

To Herself:  Oh crap.  Why’s he coming in here?   I don’t want to be trapped in here with him.  Can I snake outta here first?  Nope.

I was sure he was going to be rude and surly because that’s how he was in those volunteer meetings.  Believe me, I didn’t have anywhere near enough morphine on-board to fend that off.

Him:   [looking perplexed and a little hurt]  I just wanted to ask you what you thought about Casey [a pseudonym for another volunteer].

Her:  Oh, yeah, I finally figured that out.  I held my breath for the first few minutes you were in that tiny space with me, wondering when you’d say something tart.   I kept wondering how long I had to stay in order to seem polite.  Then, you quite reasonably started talking about your frustration with Casey.

Him:  Yeah, I really needed to talk [about her].

Her:   Yep, you did.  It was then that I realized that in those meetings you were crabby because of her and you fortified yourself with beer before the meetings hoping that would help.  But I still got outta there as fast as I could.

Cupid:   Hoo-boy.  I can’t believe you two got together at all.  How on earth did you even have a date?  I shoulda stayed around to be sure the arrows actually pierced those thick hides of yours.

Him and Her:   Harrumph!

Him:   She had to go to her storeroom and really dreaded it.  It was really hard for her to see her life all packed up like that.  So, I volunteered to go with her.  And she said YES!

Her:   Oh yes, he was good company.  On the way back, we stopped for dinner at his favorite Vietnamese restaurant that he’d been going to for at least 10 years, probably more.  We agreed much later that it was a date, the first date.

Him:   Yes, she was a tough cookie back then.  Well…  still is… but, I mean, well, er.  Never mind.

Cupid:   OK, that was going pretty well.  Tell us more.  Let me get this straight:  you finally had a first date six months after you met because you both were tetchy types.  That about cover it?

Him and Her:  Uh, yeah.  [throat clearing and shifting around in chairs]

Her:   You invited me to take a walk in one of your favorite parks, my kind of place because it was unimproved.  As we walked single-file along a narrow trail, we started talking.  You kept saying amazing things:  it was apparent that you observed the world and actually thought about things.  After that day in the park, it was all downhill from there.  We were relaxed together.

Him:  I kept asking her to go do things and she kept saying yes!  I liked showing her my favorite places.

Her:   I was so dense that I completely missed that he was showing me his favorite places!  Duh.

Him:   Oh well.

Her:   Other people have always commented on our relaxed companionship.  Said they liked to be around us as a couple.  Nice, huh?

Cupid:  Very nice.  [big frikkin’ miracle if you ask me, but you weren’t asking, but still!!! …]

Cupid:   I’m wondering how you remember the date of your first meeting 14 years ago when clearly one of you wasn’t all there and the other one was looking at, uh, you know, her clothing.

Him and Her:    We met during Maritime Fest, even have the poster from the event.  It has the date on it [smugly stated].

Cupid:  How ro-man-tic[Not!  These two are, uh, I dunno.  The date’s on the poster?!   What?!  At least my part was done correctly. Never going back and asking questions in a dreamy-eyed mood.  Never again.   I’ll get squashed flat and I’m not setting myself up for that again!]

Cupid:   Well, that was certainly, uh, um, elucidating.  You two definitely come under the heading of Will Wonders Never Cease?   Good luck!  Gotta run!  Cheers!  [Let me outta here; I hope the door isn’t locked!]

we kept the date to hand! good thing because first I thought it was 14 Sept, then I knew for certain it was 28 Sept. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, wrong on both counts!

Thank you, Big Mister, for being persistent.

Click on one of these photos to go right to the Foss Waterway Seaport site.

Historic sailing vessels in front of the wheat warehouse. (photo courtesy:

Inside the building with those massive beams–each beam milled from a single tree. Back in the days when we hadn’t cut down all the massive old-growth timber.

The glass front is being added right now! Quite gorgeous so far!

never mind; I’m used to the other way

Big Mister, swell Big Mister, has been giving me a boatload of his time.  He works hard at his job 5 days a week, makes the drive to visit my mother one evening a week, does 98% of the cooking, fixes my shoulder when it goes bad, and just generally is a delightful companion.

Today, he was helping me to extend the shelving in the studio.  My idea about construction is:  I just want two shelves right there, only about 4 feet long, so it should be fast.  No. No. No.  Poor patient guy.  He does manage to show me the error of my ways like so:

“Here, hold this.”

“Do you want to hold this up or go fetch?”  (I chose “fetch,” but he made me be the holder-upper.)

“Help me tighten the clamps, then you won’t have to hold the wood while I use the saw because it makes you cry.”

I’m willing, so start to twist the screw thingie to get the clamp to meet the boards.   I don’t even bother to think:  lefty-lucy, righty-tighty because it’s never what I expect.  I’m pretty sure the guys what put the threaded things together were actually standing upside down, and that’s why sometimes it’s left-tighty, righty-lucy, like the camper windows.  Why why why?!  So I’m helpin’ by tightening the screw thingie and he says:

“Wait!  Stop!  Oh, never mind.  It’s OK; I’m just used to the other way.”  (The other way meaning:  he almost always has to correct the direction I’ve chosen.)

I barked with laughter.  How could I not?  How could I argue or feel offended?!

Shelving is coming along.  !!  Yaaaaaaaay!


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