Too Good to Keep

I don’t care what anyone says. Summer officially started this weekend. To hell with the calendar. I’m ignoring the meteorologists, too. Summer wasn’t summer until the sun came out for more than an hour. For the first time in weeks I was able to weed the garden and the walk without dodging raindrops. I finally took up those giant prehistoric looks growths growing along side the driveway. I tackled the ground cover problem, too. Redistributing the gravel that has slid down the hill. This is Hilltop, after all. I moved rocks until my sun-bared arms ached. It felt good. I got in the pool for the second time this season and actually took a few strokes for the first time. Maybe I’ll learn to swim for real. It felt amazing. We got more of the back of the house painted. The gutter guys came. Progress is progressing.
Inspired by the weather I decided on a grill dinner. Pork marinated in lime, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. But, that wasn’t the best part of the mean meal. The salsa/salad was. Try this for yourself – play with the ingredients and measurements:

  • chickpeas
  • black beans
  • grape tomatoes
  • grilled corn
  • red onion
  • avocado
  • jalapeno
  • cilantro
  • cumin
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • champagne vinegar
  • sea salt
  • tri-colored fresh cracked pepper

Throw everything into a big bowl and let marinate for a few hours. Any ingredient can be left out or substituted for something else. Think about it – red beans instead of black, how about rice? Vidalia instead of red onion, scotch bonnet instead of jalapeno, red wine vinegar instead of champagne…these switches aren’t a stretch, but the options are limitless. Then, to really blow your mind, there is texture. Mince everything small and you have a blended salsa, puree it and you have a killer sauce for grilled chicken. Leave it super chunky and sprinkle it with tortilla chips and you have a great side salad. Add lettuce and grilled beef (sliced paper thin) and there’s a whole meal. I love meals like this.

This weekend felt like a holiday. We worked around the house and enjoyed the sun. Grilled on the deck and savored sweet cherries for dessert. Danced around the living room to Coldplay drums. Later, from our living room window we paused a movie to take in the second fireworks display of the holiday. Bedtime brought a book to bed with me. But, before long my eyes grew too heavy. Sleep came easy. A perfect ending to a perfect day to good to keep.

Green Peace?

front doorWho would have thought I would enjoy digging in the dirt so much? Hand me a house complete with a hoe and I’m a happy girl. Who knew? Every morning I find myself standing on the stoop, checking the vital signs of my transplants, keeping tabs on the roses. I pluck wilting blooms from the hanging planter, willing more flowers to take their places. Bring on the color. Every night on my way to check the mail I double check my geraniums. My fight-breast-cancer pink blooms. Check for bugs. Check for dry soil. Do you need anything, I ask them. Water? Bug spray? Food? There is peace in all this puttering and pampering.
In the middle rhododendron bush a mother robin had built a nest. I had a perfect view of her from my window. Over time as I watched her sit on her eggs I would myself just how many babies did she have? I spied every day, hoping to catch a glimpse of her skyblue family. They hadn’t hatched by the time I went away, but when I came home three loud mouthed, scrawny, bald babies squawked from their cozy perch. Strange how a family of common birds could fill me with such caring. I kept a careful watch over them until one day the nest was silent. Empty. The babies had flown. Or so I hoped.
Out in the back there is a spindly dogwood (“It’s a tree and a bush, sir.”) that I have been mothering. When my mother was in town we noticed a strange vine had wrapped its tendrils around its fragile limbs. Invasive and attacking, this vine was literally choking the life out of my dogwood. We, my mother and I, set to work with a fierce counterattack. Armed with sharp (pink!) clippers we chopped and slashed our way through the vines and freed the dogwood tree from captivity. Since then I have been diligent in keeping the vines at bay. I hack anything that comes near.
A good friend has a garden of herbs on her front steps. I envy her because she grows all my favorites: cilantro, italian flat leaf parsley and basil. Could I do the same? the thought crosses my mind nearly everyday. What about the cats? The rabbits? And someone said something about a wild boar…something I need to think about.

So for now I will tend to my dusty miller, my roses – trees, bushes and flowers. This garden that has brought me a different kind of relaxation, a separate peace, if you will. Who knew?