Archive for garden

Vani’s Eating Better Challenge and Garden Update

Last week I passed by Mysoorean and saw that Vani had been reading my mind; she had embarked upon an Eating Better Challenge.

Here I am to join you Vani, and wishing you a Happy Blog Birthday! :)

Today, my breakfast was sabudana khichdi based on Nupur’s recipe. My lunch was the leftover palya from the Fasting Dosa Experiment (and seriously, no dosa from my kitchen need apply, the filling was better than the wrap!). I had both while manning the front desk of a lovely little hotel — the first day I was not tempted by the bagels and cream cheese served up for b’fast there! ;)

Tonight I am making ISG’s kollu paruppu chutney and rasam. This is so delicious that I routinely keep a quantity of the special rasam powder in my freezer :)

No photos of the above, as I worked late last night only to return first thing this morning. No rest for the weary in my new life! Tomorrow is a coveted day off so I can photograph at leisure; hopefully I will get some things prepared ahead to carry with me the rest of the week.

The little garden in the north woods is coming along in spite of cooler temps last week.

chard tomatillos 72713
chard and yellow tomatillos finally taking off ~ those are little carrot seedlings to the left!

little corn patch
the little corn patch towers over various pepper plants, with cherry tomatoes growing tall on the near side

cukes growing on teepees
cucumber vines climbing homemade teepees ~ poles beans to the right

lebanese zucchini
these lovely lebanese squash plants are among my favorite things in the garden ~ already bearing fruit but too small to pick…maybe tomorrow?! hopefully these are similar to the korean grey squash I grew so fond of ~ dear h-mart, please build a store in the north woods! :)

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Along The Mohawk Trail ~ Moving Home Part Two (plus Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa)

Continuing this little story, we set off from New Hampshire on a rainy morning, and drove south into Massachusetts. Turning west, we picked up the historic Mohawk Trail. Avoiding the highway was best for kitties and driver alike; we made several stops along the way. The first was Erving, a small town in western Mass. Like many such towns, it lives alongside the railroad.

small town america
small town in western massachusetts

cute little stop on day one
cute little antique and lunch spot in erving

cargo piles
various piles of cargo along the railway at erving

We ventured off the Trail to visit the hamlet of Shelburne Falls, home of glacial potholes. Here, the Deerfield River tumbles over a dam at Salmon Falls. As it was early spring, there was plenty of runoff. My photos did not capture a pothole. Still, it was a sight to see, all that water — and a pretty little town in the foothills of the Berkshires to boot.

salmon falls viewing platform
salmon falls and glacial potholes at shelburne falls

salmon falls plaque
history of the spot

salmon falls tumbling over dam
the deerfield river tumbling down to the potholes creates plenty of white water

deerfield river runs on
deerfield river racing out of the potholes to join the connecticut river, then onward to the atlantic

Continuing from that small detour, we arrived at the famous hairpin turn coming down into North Adams. Of course there are myriad hairpin turns in the world — the thing about this one is that you don’t expect it unless you have heard of it, and if you haven’t traveled in the western part of Massachusetts, you probably wouldn’t have. This turn seems to spring up out of nowhere and affords some lovely views!

hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy day
hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy road

view from siding at hairpin turn
view from the side of the hairpin turn

view into the valley at the hairpin turn
view into the valley at the hairpin turn

in the clouds at the hairpin turn
*in* the clouds at the hairpin turn

The rest of the drive was too rainy to stop for photos. We continued off the beaten path, until NY Route 7 carried us across the Hudson River via the Collar City Bridge. Faced with the outskirts of Albany, we stopped for the night. Kitties were mighty perplexed, as you can see.

miss daisy pretending to hide
miss daisy trying to hide under a bed, only there was no ‘under’ — just a platform base

mr pinks ventures forth for supper
pinkie ventures forth from the closet — supper is of utmost importance to pinks ;)


Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa ~ An Experiment

One thing I knew I would miss in moving away from a major metropolitan area was the *shopping* — food shopping to be more precise — my favorite haunts for Indian and other Asian groceries, to be exact! To comfort myself, I stocked up on numerous items. For example, I am probably good on methi seeds and Korean chili powder for the next oh, 20 years or so ;)

upvas fasting mix
fasting mix ~ has anyone used this??

I purchased this Upvas Fasting Mix by Deep Foods. I had NO idea what to do with it, but it was inexpensive, came in a small package, and looked too good to pass up (yep, I am a sucker for marketing — and I know it). Just look at that green, serene figure meditating on the lovely light-colored flour, bathed in yellow sunlight. You just *know* something good will happen to you if you cook with this, right? Right! Maybe you’ll find inner peace — maybe you will create WORLD peace! Yep, that’s me… a dreamer to the end.

Shortly prior to moving, I visited King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT with my good friend A. There, I purchased a sourdough starter and carried it to Michigan in the cooler. When I landed, I fed the starter and made two batches — one for me and one for dear G. Now that I am here in the new little home, there is no need for two starters — today we combined them into one and freshened it up.

The fascinating fasting mix moved with me amongst the other goodies, all the way to the north woods. I searched and searched for a way to use it. This morning I found a recipe on Deep’s website. Rather than fried bread (that would negate all that good stuff that fasting is supposed to do, right?), I decided to try dosai with the freshened sourdough.

potato masala for dosai

To make dosai, a cupful of starter went into a bowl, along with a cup of that Upvas Fasting Mix and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Happily, after an hour or so, the neglected starter came to life and the dosa batter bubbled. I added only a pinch of salt before cooking. The dosai came out as mine usually do — looking like a mess!

fasting mix dosa
looks iffy ~ tastes great!

I added a bit more water to the very last of the batter for a ‘paper dosa’…

paper dosa with fasting mix
crispy super-thin paper dosa from fasting mix

They all tasted properly dosai-ish nonetheless, and I am happy to know the sourdough is working yet. A simple potato palya (modeled after this lovely recipe of Prema’s) with plenty of onion was the filling, and that was my supper for work tonight.

And whew, the work day is over and so is this post :)

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Out Of The Michigan Garden!

Hello dear friends!

Much water has flowed under the bridge since I was last able to write a real post. Probably enough to fill Lake Superior! Well, maybe not quite ;) The kitties and I have finally landed in Michigan — the beautiful north woods — and I am busy in a very good way. Would you believe me if I told you that most of my old house is packed up in storage, but my prized boxes and bags of spices and dals and all things yummy are sitting in the new home as I type!?

Here in the cool of the north is a patch of sunlight in which the new garden luxuriates under the hardwoods.

I wish you all as much happiness and contentment as the last few months have brought me… and now without further ado, the Michigan garden!

the little garden in the north woods
pea vines and corn patch

lots of tomatoes and cucumbers ~ herb patch in the back

amish paste tomato
amish paste tomato ~ an heirloom variety

sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
cherry tomatoes ~ sweet 100s

corn patch, sunflowers and peppers
corn patch, with myriad hot and sweet peppers to the fore

yummy brinjals
ichiban (rear) and fairytale (front) eggplants ~ hooray for brinjal!

herb patch
the herb patch ~ sweet and thai basil, sage, oregano, dill, fennel (we hope!), cilantro, and methi methi methi!

lebanese squash plants
lebanese squash from seeds of india ~ the seeds were three years old and germinated like a dream

methi methi methi
that lovely methi!

chanchal okra
more older seeds popping up ~ the ever-reliable chanchal okra

the little patch of sunflowers lives behind the corn patch

something new to try ~ tomatillos! this variety supposedly ripens yellow

tomatillo husk tomato
tomatillos are also called husk tomatoes; the husk grows first, then the fruit forms inside!

cukes and beans
straight eight cukes and a variety of pole beans ~ including horticultural beans of succotash fame, and some long beans from seeds of india

It’s so exciting to try a garden in the *ground* as opposed to on the deck. Old habits die hard, however — I still have some eggplants in pots, as well as one golden jubilee tomato ~ we’ll see how they fare up here!

A few last scenes from the new homeplace…

front yard
the front yard complete with bird feeder, bird pond, and woodpile ready to be stacked properly for winter use

country road in northern michigan
the view from the mailbox down a country road ~ how happy could I be!

daisy in a woodbox
daisy in a woodbox

welcome to my new little home in the north woods!

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Goan Fish Chowder a la Bong Mom

garden in new hampshire on memorial day weekend
newly planted new hampshire garden in Memorial Day sunshine ~ complete with picket fence!

A few weeks ago I saw this irresitible curry dish at Bong Mom’s Cookbook.
It was one of those drop-everything-and-cook-now moments, just like I had with Suganya’s sambhar a long time ago.

Sure enough, the dish was even tastier than it looked; I’ve made it 3-4 times since. I’ve made it as intended, I’ve made it with tofu in place of shrimp…

goan shrimp curry from Bong Mom
with tofu *and* shrimp…

I guess you could say I am hooked :)

Tonight I had a nice fresh piece of haddock but no ideas. I thought of S’s wonderful Goan Curry and decided to try it with the fish. I also had a few boiling (waxy) potatoes… hmmm…

While the onions were cooking I thought the potatoes might be good in the curry. By the time I got to frying the spice paste, I had diced the potatoes and tossed them into the pot. That was a throwback to New England clam chowder, in which you cook the potatoes in the clam broth base so they absorb the flavor. By the time the spice paste and tomatoes were well-cooked, the potatoes were about half done — perfect! Time for the coconut milk. Since this was fast turning into ‘chowder’ I made it a little more liquid with water, and covered the pot to simmer until the potatoes were tender.

goan fish chowdah cooking
potatoes cooking in the spicy coconut milk broth

Had I been looking for a low-fat supper I would have put the fish straight in, but by now I was really into this chowder parallel. I shallow-fried the fish in a little coconut oil — o heavenly aroma!

shallow-frying fresh haddock

When you add your fish to the chowder depends on how you like it done — I prefer my fish just barely cooked through, so I added it at the very end, turned off the heat and let it rest about ten minutes before serving. If you prefer your fish falling-apart-done, you could add it sooner and simmer awhile longer before the resting period.

goan fish chowder ~ heaven in a bowl!
goan fish chowder a la Bong Mom ~ fusion heaven in a bowl!

Oh, the delights of this tasty dish! The sharp and tangy bite of vinegar, garlic and chiles, mellowed by the rich coconut; succulent fish and melt-in-your-mouth potatoes, all swimming happily in an aromatic sea of goodness.

All I need now are a few oyster crackers — but I never was a fan of oyster crackers… some rice will do even better.

muthu samba rice in waterfall
muthu samba rice ~ I still think it looks like sugar…

So to recap, this is nothing more than Bong Mom’s wonderful Goan Shrimp Curry with fish fried in coconut oil in place of shrimp, and a few potatoes cooked in the spice paste.

If you haven’t tried the original recipe yet, don’t wait another moment!

bong moms goan spice paste
tantalizing and addictive ~ Bong Mom’s goan spice paste

Thanks for the fusion inspiration, S!

And to S in NH — thanks for the new garden :)

feathered friend in nh garden
I’ve heard of bunnies at the garden gate, but turkeys?!? ;)

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Limping Back with Tangy Hot Pepper Jelly

banana and serrano peppers, garlic, fresh rosemary
fresh produce for jelly ~ mostly from the garden!

Whenever I am going through a rough patch, there are several things that can bring me back.

In no particular order these are:

1. autumn in the air

2. kids

3. lake superior

4. cooking

When cooking does the trick, India always comes to the rescue in some way.

not in this post, but a pretty flower nonetheless
chanchal okra


Where did summer go? Where did the past 18 years go!?

Miss m went away to summer camp early in July, came home in August for the Week Of Laundry, and was off to college in the blink of an eye. There was hardly time for hello, nevermind goodbye. I was thoroughly in the dumps. On top of it all, I had a minor knee surgery that kept me off my feet for a couple of weeks afterwards.

Of course, the house is not empty ~ the kitties are here. And big brother is here, but at 22, he’s never here! Rightfully so; I’m nowhere near as much fun as his friends ;)

Because I was laid up, there was no good old-fashioned burying myself in the kitchen or garden to keep my mind off my baby leaving — no energy to work on this house that needs packing — just 90 degree temps and plenty of time to lay around feeling sorry for myself.

Thankfully, the weather turned over the long holiday weekend; autumn is an especially big pick-me-up this year. Yesterday I got out and ran errands, cooked supper, and planned for today’s supper — which is more than I have felt like doing in weeks.

The garden is still producing, albeit a little more slowly now. I wanted to do something with the serrano peppers that all ripened ON the plant — that didn’t happen last year. I thought about chutney, but I wasn’t in the mood to drag out the mixie.

Then I thought about jelly. Hot pepper and garlic jelly… something I could share with my dad, too. Yum.

Jelly won. Don’t ask me how it’s less work to drag out the canning outfit, wash and sterilize jars… I don’t have a good answer for that one :)

Tangy Hot Pepper Jelly
yield: approx 3 1/2 pts
use vinegar and sweetener to your taste

1 1/2 c banana peppers
remove seeds and chop
(about 6-8 peppers)

1/4 – 1/3 c red-ripe serrano peppers
remove seeds and chop
(again, about 6-8 peppers)

12-20 cloves garlic, peeled
trim off hard end of cloves
place in foil, drizzle with olive oil, crimp the top shut and roast about 20 min at 400F.
When cooled, chop finely, and sprinkle salt if desired.

2 TB chopped smoked eggplant
(optional ~ I had this leftover, grilled, from supper but again, didn’t want to drag out the mixie and make baba ghanoush….)

1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
(or other fresh herb of your choice)

1/3 – 1/2c good red wine like cabernet

scant 1 c cider vinegar
scant 1 c white vinegar

1 c sugar OR
6-8 lumps jaggery, depending on size and your taste

1 1/2 c splenda or to taste

1 pkg (1 3/4 oz) dry, no-sugar-needed pectin such as Ball brand

more pectin if needed


Place chopped peppers, garlic, rosemary, and optional eggplant in a large pot. Add vinegar, wine, and sugar or jaggery.

Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. When sugar or jaggery is dissolved, add Splenda and pectin — start with one pkg of pectin (1 3/4 oz).

Bring now to a rolling boil — one you cannot stir down with a spoon — and boil for one minute.

Remove from heat and test for jelling. Take some up in a cold spoon (soak a spoon in ice water, was one tip I read). If it jells quickly, you’re good to go. If not, add another teaspoon of pectin, put it back on the stove and bring back to a rolling boil, and cook another 30-60 seconds.

Remove again from the heat to the clear space where your clean cloth and sterile jars are ready. Ladle carefully into the jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace.

Using a damp cloth, carefully wipe the edges of the jars — you don’t want to drip water into the jelly — more importantly, you don’t want to burn yourself.

Place sterile lids on the jars and secure the bands.

Process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes.

Carefully remove with a jar-lifter and set on a clean cloth. You should hear the lids’ vacuum POP shortly thereafter — there’s nothing quite so satisfying as that sound.

hot pepper jelly
hot pepper jelly cooling on a dishtowel

If you have never tried home-canning, be it jelly or something else, don’t worry — there are lots of great resources out there.

Home Canning (Ball Company)
Site for USA and Canada, Ball Company

Pick Your Own
Lots of tips, recipes, and pick-your-own farm listings for the USA

If you are in the US, your local county extension will be a great resource too, as well as the USDA website.


As usual, I began by searching online for *the perfect recipe*. As usual, I began about 9 pm… why waste all this newfound energy!

And as usual when I got to the kitchen, I was missing one key ingredient:


And that is where India came to the rescue tonight; I may not keep sugar at hand, but there is always jaggery. Because jaggery is unrefined, this jelly might not sparkle in the sunlight, but it surely sparkles with flavor!

Inspiration for this recipe came from many places — principally these.
And no offense, I wish to give credit where credit is due!

However, these three sites all load VERY SLOWLY for me, and tend to lock me up. Nothing to do with the great recipes — but,
just so you know :)

Don and Marsha’s Hot Pepper Jelly

Gina’s Locally Famous Onion Garlic Hot Pepper Jelly

Big Black Dog’s Basil Banana Pepper Jelly

And for more India inspiration, try some Chanchal Okra — even in a pot, somewhat neglected this year, it will grow like a dream :)

chanchal okra field on the deck!
field of okra, in a pot on the deck

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Ah… August!

Finally — August!

Of course, August began fifteen days back, but mid-month is when I notice the sun setting just a little earlier each day, I can feel a subtle change in the weather,
I finally feel like doing all those chores I’ve been putting off since May;

mid-August is when my blood and breath quicken ~ when my spirit begins to move again after a long summer’s nap.

Of course I am very disappointed that I am unable to make my annual August pilgrimage to the Big Lake, but, chin up!

The garden harvest is on in earnest, and autumn is just around the corner. Preparations for moving m to college are in full swing!

m’s just back from summer camp and the laundry is *everywhere* ~
pinkie wisely ignores it…

Meanwhile, out in the garden, things are looking up…

up, up and away!

various tomatoes on the deck ~ at the right is the brandywine tomato tree which tops out at about 6′ tall ~ nothing compared to mm’s 8′ monsters!

brandywine tomatoes growing

and at last, the first one ripening!

lemon boy tomatoes ~ not as prolific as the golden jubilees of prior years,
but just as sweet

elegant black prince tomato ripens to deep red, with mahogany shoulders ~
this has a rich, smoky flavor

the winner two years running ~ chanchal okra! an indian variety, the seeds are available here

this rogue tomato sprouted in the midst of the new herb garden ~
it’s flowering, and even has a baby fruit set ~ all without any special attention

A few interesting creatures have popped up around the garden this year…

alianthus webworm

a dragonfly of the mystery variety ~ these guys are a gardener’s friend

juvenile red-tailed hawk ~ one of two that have been frequenting the tops of some large pine trees at the end of the street ~ hence the fuzzy close-up

ah, august!

lake superior in all her august splendor ~ yep, a little homesick

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When There’s No Getting Over That Rainbow…

When there’s no getting over that rainbow
when my smallest of dreams won’t come true…

I can take all the madness the world has to give
but I won’t last a day without you… “

~~ Paul Williams

listen here

rainbow outside my front door ~ after a storm late this afternoon…

I am sure I’m not the first person to write an entire post (that I really *liked*),
only to find that somehow, it disappeared into the ether.
Well, that’s where I am now! So while this may not be my best effort, it’s my best attempt at recall, an hour after the fact ;)

save draft, save draft


It’s been a wild ride since Dad’s surgery in March — on through May and June, both kids graduating, and many life changes on the near horizon.

This new job (was it only two years ago I took it??) keeps me too busy during the week. I miss blogging and blog-hopping on a regular basis.

Sometimes I feel if I’m not here regularly, I shouldn’t be here at all. Still, I am always drawn back. It’s an addiction, but a good one ;)

On the internet, when a person goes MIA, it’s easy to think they’ve lost interest or don’t care. Rest assured, I haven’t, and I do!

So……hi, how are y’all ;)


Come Fourth of July, I always make salmon chowder.

This year, for one reason or twelve, I wasn’t able to do so. I’ve been craving salmon ever since. Now I am inundated, happily I might add, with fresh brinjals — planted in almost every pot I had a tomato plant last year. After the blight I couldn’t bear to see the garden shrivel up — but you can always count on Ichiban eggplant!

Today I found myself staring at a nice fresh fillet of salmon,
and a bowl full of freshly picked brinjal.

ichiban eggplant/brinjal
ichiban eggplants ~ long purple asian-type brinjal

I decided the time was long past for plain old same old salmon chowder.

I wanted something different.

I had no coconut milk in the house, and no inclination to make it from frozen coconut, so I couldn’t have S’s lovely fish molee.

Knowing dear ISG is a salmon-lover like me, I knew I would find just the right dish in the archives over at Daily Musings. I basically made her very recipe (ok, ok, nothing new here…).

The only difference is, I omitted coconut, and added brinjal and a potato, for good July 4th measure. I don’t know if it’s still Kongu Naatu style, but it was certainly delicious!


Salmon and Brinjal Kulambu with Potato
recipe adapted from IGS’s Fish Kulambu

Dice one or two long, purple asian-type brinjals (like Ichiban). Pan-roast them in a drop of oil or some Pam spray, over med-high heat. When browned, add the tamarind water and one potato, diced. Leave the skin on if you want extra fiber (and that rustic touch!). Reduce heat to med-low, cover and cook until the potato is nearly done. Turn off the heat and reserve.

Meanwhile, follow ISG’s recipe. Heat oil in a large pan, add seasonings and then onion, garlic and tomato. When the tomato has cooked down, add the reserved brinjal-potato-tamarind mixture and enough water.

Since I prefer my fish to the left of cooked, here’s what I did for barely-done salmon:

When the kulambu is cooked to your taste, bring to a rolling boil. Add the fish cubes, stir once, cover, and remove from the heat.

The fish will be perfectly done in about five minutes.

tasty salmon kulambu
tasty salmon, brinjal and potato kulambu… courtesy ISG and her mom!

ISG, thanks to you and your dear mom for the perfect salmon recipe to chase away my cravings! All the best tmo! :)


any guess as to what this is? it’s been growing, with a few friends just like itself,
all summer in the new herb garden, but I did not plant it…

dream summer
since 2003, dear m has gone to a camp for girls with diabetes… this summer, she is giving back… she is the counselor holding onto this little gal… could I be a prouder mom?? :)

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High Hopes redux

Sing along here :)

“Just what makes that little old ant, think she can grow a curry leaf plant…

little curry leaf plant
little curry leaf plant… July 2009

…anyone knows an ant, can’t, grow a curry leaf plant!

But she’s got high hopes… “

bigger little curry leaf plant!
bigger little curry leaf plant… july 2010 (still not as luxurious as hers though!) :)

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Late June Garden

tomato blossoms waiting for the sun

hopeful buds waiting to open and become…

tomato blossoms

tomato blossoms… in all their glory

After the sad and sorry tomato blight of last year, I decided to plant more brinjal…

brinjal blossoms
a “mess” of brinjal blossoms

one lovely brinjal blossom

and only a few tomatoes on the deck…

cherry tomatoes and brinjals
cherry tomatoes, in two pots, with two ichiban eggplant (long purple brinjals) in one pot… deck gardening!

…with herbs in the garden ‘proper’.

herb garden ~ cosmos behind
the little herb garden, where tomatoes once grew…

Sunflower seeds (a few years old) did not germinate, so I got a few cosmos seedlings and planted them instead — if they grow tall, the goldfinches might be enticed by their seeds in a month or two.

Happily, unlike last June, the weather has been warm and sunny, with just enough rain. I stopped fussing over the tomatoes and let them blossom as they will — no pinching of early flowers in the name of bigger plants. Everything is growing fast and furious; the cucumbers and okra have taken off this weekend, too.

sugar crunch cukes
sugar crunch cucumbers, ready to vine … okra plants peeking out of the green pot in the foreground

Strangely, I have seen few bees, so I hope something comes around to pollinate soon.

How does your garden grow?

brandywine tomato
you can grow any tomato in a container ~
even an indeterminate heirloom like brandywine!
now just hoping for some fruit…

Comments (6)

Try, Try Again…

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”…

Old adage. Wise words.

After the disappointment of last year’s tomato crop, slow to start with downpours in June, then killed off quickly by late blight in August, I spent the winter convinced that I wouldn’t plant tomatoes again.

The time for selling the house is fast approaching, and I didn’t want a huge veggie patch in the backyard — I opted for an easy herb garden in its place. I bought eight (countem’ 8!) ichiban eggplants, my favorite, and figured they and some peppers and okra would take up the pots on the deck.

Great! Sounds like a plan.

Of course, another adage is that of “the best laid plans of mice and men…”

All I had to do was pass by the tomatoes and the heartache and disappointment of last summer was but a distant memory…

I will try again.

better boy, pink brandywine
hopeful tomato seedlings… better boy and pink brandywine…

lemon boy, black prince
along with lemon boy and black prince…

Three ichibans planted and five to go — I should be swimming in eggplant by August.

Now I am looking for some Italian bean seeds. Their rich flavor is my new favorite in sambhar.

How does your garden grow?

Life changes sprouting up all over:

graduation day
somewhere in the crowd sits my son, the college graduate…

try, try again...
magna cum laude!

last HS prom
the last high school prom for my daughter… off to college in august

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