Food Nature


It’s been a while since I gave a Garden Cheerleader update.

The tomatoes are doing well, not a bumper crop but delivering at least one or two ripe tomatoes every few days. The peppers are also popping with regular frequency, and the oregano and basil do well as long as they are kept watered.

Our one tiny cluster of grapes is shifting from green to purple, which is exciting. I’ve been around gardens before; my grandmother grew tomatoes and other vegetables every year, and so did I when I was a child, once or twice. But this is my first experience with growing grapes. I’m so emotionally invested in this first batch that I may not be able to eat them once they’re ripe.

What’s truly thriving in our little backyard garden is kale. It doesn’t seem to require a lot of watering. The occasional rain shower and some in-between offerings from the backyard hose are apparently sufficient. Sometimes, I see evidence of bugs on the plants, but for the most part, they seem to be bug-free, growing steadily in their dark green, heavy-leafed way.

I’m not a fan of kale; my experiences eating raw kale were not enjoyable. I chewed, and chewed, and chewed, and the pieces didn’t seem to get smaller, and the flavor was acrid and unpleasant. In my opinion, kale has one purpose: to be cooked into soups and stews, a hearty background vegetable that gives a touch of texture and vitamins. Cooked into something, the leaves become soft, and the flavor becomes secondary.

Like a good Garden Cheerleader, I’m proud of the kale success we’re seeing, even if I don’t put kale at the top of my vegetable favorites. I know it’s good for me; I’m grateful to have it.

Where’s the soup kettle? Let’s make some dinner.

Animals Nature Pets


Yesterday evening, my husband reported a close encounter with a backyard bomber.

He and Mollie were out in the yard, doing yard things, when something hit him from above. He first thought it was a branch falling off a tree and didn’t pay much attention. But then, it happened again. This time, he noticed that it was a little piece of the tree, not a nut like an acorn or pecan, but a similar type of tree bloom.

Then, it happened again.

At that point, he looked up and saw…a squirrel.

Mr. Squirrel was sitting in the branches above him, throwing pieces of the tree at him.

My husband yelled at Mr. Squirrel. Mr. Squirrel smirked and chattered in his squirrel language (which, if you listen closely, sounds a lot like laughter). He then went on his way, up into the higher branches, most likely to tell his squirrel friends about his amusing backyard adventures.

My husband then looked over at Mollie, who was watching it all play out. She looked back at him.

If dogs could shrug, she would have. If dogs could talk, she would have said, “Dude. Every day. Why do you think I bark so much? I’ve been trying to warn you. Squirrels, man. Let’s go inside.”



The Summer Bugs are here.

Their “real” name is Cicada, but I always think of them as The Summer Bugs. To me, the sound they make, the rhythmic buzzing, is the sound of summer. It’s the sound of heat and sun and sweat and thirst.

That sound sets me on edge.

As a child, I had fun collecting their shells. My friends and I would group the shells into large and small, make up stories about Momma Bug and Poppa Bug and their family of Little Bugs.

The shells were brown, crackly and fragile. For some reason, they didn’t bother me. They still don’t bother me (much). Of course, I no longer collect them; they are no longer weird toys. Now, as an adult, I simply ignore them.

On the other hand, the bugs – the living, active bugs – have always bothered me. The bugs cannot be ignored. Green and white bodies, large, transparent wings, bulbous eyes and skittery legs. Sometimes, one will fly at you, maybe even get stuck in your hair. When they do, their buzzing is no longer distant background noise. It is in your ears, immediate and loud, swift and insistent. The stuff of nightmares.

I know they are harmless to humans. I’m sure they provide some type of bug benefit in nature and aren’t truly deserving of my deeply-held disgust.

But I’ll still be glad when summer ends, and they go back into hibernation, putting and end to their droning, repetitive buzz. Until the next year, when the temperatures soar again, and we squint as we look up at cloudless skies and think, “How many days has it been since it last rained?”



Woke up this morning to the sound of thunder rolling in the distance and raindrops bouncing on the roof.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott

Family Food Nature


The jalapeños in our backyard garden are growing well.

As the Garden Cheerleader, I am excited for their progress and proud to show them off. I don’t generally enjoy jalapeños, however, so a bumper crop of them will not be of much benefit to me.

My husband, on the other hand, can never have enough jalapeños. Fresh, pickled, roasted, baked – he loves them in any form, cooked in any way. To him, spicy food is delicious; the spicier, the better.

I am perplexed by this, because my experience with spicy food is that the flavor is outweighed by the burning. When I eat anything beyond the most basic level of salsa, all I experience is pain. Even worse, if cheese is involved in the dish, the cheesy goodness is overwhelmed by the spice, which is a sad state affairs. Cheese is awesome; cheese should never be overwhelmed.

I suppose it’s possible that his tastebuds have adapted to pick up the nuance of flavor within the heat. Or maybe there’s just something about his palate that makes certain flavors appealing to him but not to me. For example, some people prefer dark chocolate to milk chocolate, and some people don’t like chocolate at all. Whatever the reason, he loves those little green spice bombs. For his sake, I’m glad we’re having a good jalapeño year.

Here’s to the peppers that grow in our garden. I’m not a fan, but my husband is, and that is reason enough to cheer them on.

Food Nature


Backyard garden update: the tomatoes are busy tomato-ing, and the oregano has grown in.

We picked some of both and then dried one batch of the oregano.

Husband also added basil to the garden; it’s growing well, and I’ll be gathering some of that today.

Pasta, anyone?



As the Garden Cheerleader, it’s great fun to celebrate each blossom, fruit, leaf, and vine.

These are the first grapes on our little grapevine. They might be the only ones we see this year. I adore them. Grow, little grapes. Grow.

“I carry on mental dialogues with the shoots of the grapevine, who reveal to me grand thoughts and to whom I can retell wondrous things.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Family Nature


Today’s cuppa celebrates our backyard garden.

I can’t take credit for it. Husband and sons did (and do) the work. My allergies keep me from spending too much time out there. But, I appreciate what they’ve done, support their efforts, and clap merrily whenever new flowers, or vegetables, or fruit appear. You could call me the Garden Cheerleader.

We have several varieties of tomatoes, two blackberry bushes, a grapevine, a few potato plants, some dill, jalapeños, garlic, and onions, along with numerous roses and a honeysuckle vine. Most are growing well, especially the tomatoes, although it’s a race to see who will end up eating more of them – us or the bugs. We also have kale, which is one of my least favorites but is growing exceptionally well, mocking my disdain.

One of my grandmothers grew up on a farm in Minnesota. My other grandmother had a Victory Garden during WWII. I like to imagine them joining me as cheerleaders, celebrating nature in our backyard.



The forecast temperature for the next few days is high 80s/low 90s, so of course I’ve chosen the Snowman cuppa today.

A little cuppa weather rebellion.

Life Nature


This is the time of year when I have a 20-30 minute post-waking-up window to take the allergy medicine…or else I’ll spend the rest of the day in sniffling, sneezing misery. Occasionally, it gets bad enough that a dose before bed is also necessary.

Like most everybody, I enjoy Spring with all the blooming flowers and trees, the fresh wind blowing, the green grass covering what used to be dead patches of ground. But sometimes, it’s wisest to enjoy it from behind a window.

Here’s a cuppa for those of us who live with allergies. If you need to find us, just follow the trail of Kleenex.