The Garden in Fall

Patio Garden
Zekie in the garden.

The garden takes on a different feel in the autumn months. I know, it’s technically not fall yet, but you can definitely tell a difference. The light has a sharper feel and the path of the sun over the course of the day has changed. There are more shady places to sit on the patio throughout the day with the angle of the sun on the move. I see this as prime patio time. I can load up a tote bag of books and magazines, grab a beverage and the dogs, without worrying that the blazing sun will drive us back indoors.

In this shot of the garden, you can see Zekie photo bombing all the plants. Actually, it was a fortunate accident. Who wouldn’t want to see a photo of Zekie Bear? The other dogs were with me but laying in out of the way places.

Dahlia
First dahlia!

We finally have dahlias! We have two blooms so far. It is my fault that we are just now getting them. I was late in planting. I find that I’m rather glad about it. So many of the other plants are winding down. It is nice to have dahlia blossoms coming on to look forward to. I learned this year that you are supposed to pinch off the top of the main stalk when the dahlia plant is 12-18 inches high. This forces more branches to grow, and more branches means more blooms. Yay! If you want large blooms, you need to pinch off a few of the buds too. I also learned that dahlias are heavy feeders and need lots of fertilizer. I won’t claim to have kept up with fertilizing them like I should have, but I did do it a couple times.

Gladioli
The Leaning Tower of…Gladioli?

This is one of the last spray of gladioli blossoms for the year. They have been so reliable for me. I follow the routine of digging them up in the fall, planting them in the spring, and they never disappoint. These days, most of them get planted in my rose bed. That is the only place I have in the garden that remains sunny enough for their tastes.

Mandevilla
Mandevilla

This is a mandevilla that I wintered over last year. The summer was half-way done before it produced many blossoms. Now it is putting on a show. The mandevilla is a Zone 10 plant. We live in Zone 5. During January we wondered if our upstairs hallway where the plant sat was even warm enough to keep it going, 55 degrees when it’s really cold out! Ah, the joys of an old farmhouse. It dropped a lot of leaves at the beginning of May, right before I moved it to the enclosed porch. I’m glad we toughed it out. It turned out to be worth it.

Butterfly bush
Butterfly bush

The butterfly bush is one of those plants that I wouldn’t grow just for the flowers. What makes it worth it, is the fact that it lives up to its name. Once it starts to bloom there are butterflies on it every day, throughout the day. The majority of butterflies we see are yellow swallowtails and monarchs, although many others visit too. Not to mention the hummingbirds and my personal favorite, the hummingbird moth. So many pollinators like this bush that it makes me wonder if bats feed on it at night? That would be awesome.

We bought a couple butterfly bushes many years ago and have not been without them since. They reseed prolifically. Ours prefer to grow in craggy, inopportune places. Between sandstones in the garden wall. Along the fence. In walkway screed. They are easy enough to move when small and always seem to survive. They are such good reproducers that we weed out lots each year. Definitely don’t let one take hold where you don’t want it. They develop massive roots that require my husband and the spud bar to remove them. We have had them in different locations over the years. The bushes bloom nicely for two or three years and then start to look straggly, and we take them out, wondering where the next generation will sprout.

Sedum
Fall sedum or stone crop.

The sedum that we have, was transplanted from my husband’s grandmother’s house shortly before it was sold. I don’t find it to be a very showy flower. It has other merits. It is reliable and brings fond memories. Reason enough to grow any plant.

Cleome
Cleome

The first year after we planted a four pack of cleomes, we were inundated. I was ripping them out by the handfuls for two years. It must have been 10 years ago that we planted the first generation. We are down to one this year. Will I plant them again? I just might. They have shallow roots and are easy to pull out. It probably depends on which plants the garden centers have to offer when I am shopping.

Canna lily
Canna lily

This plant has been a pleasant surprise. We purchased it for $5 at Walmart thinking it was worth a try. It has done well, growing to about three and a half feet tall and blooming several times over the summer. We save our canna lily bulbs and replant them in the spring. They never do as well as that first year. The leaves don’t get as big, and the flowers are tiny. If anyone knows what we are doing wrong, speak up! It may just be our climate. They are a tropical plant. I see huge ones growing at the nearby university each summer. Perhaps they throw them out and buy new ones each year?

Hanging basket
Hanging basket

And last, I’ll leave you with our hanging basket on the grape pergola. I bought yet another basket and threw in leftover plants that we had purchased in multiples for various garden beds. They appear to like it there.

Incidentally, this is the first year that the grape leaves have provided enough shade that we can sit under them and escape from the sun. My husband did a heavy pruning on the grape vines in early spring, and they really grew after that. Incidentally, if you have dogs, I would not recommend planting grapes! Grapes are toxic to dogs in case you didn’t know. I did know that but did NOT know that grapes fall continually from the vines throughout their growing season (at least ours do) which seems to go on for months. Each time I want to sit on the patio with the dogs, I must pick up all the fallen grapes first and throw them over the fence. This gets old very quickly. Still, I do it religiously to keep my pups safe. I imagine you can guess which dog starts looking for grapes as soon as he gets out there. My problem child, Zekie, of course! Zekie the Wonder Dog

Take care, my friends!

Books I Read in August 2022

Patio Garden Photo
Patio Garden

I sometimes read on the patio. In the spring and fall, I go there in the afternoons. During the heat of summer, I spend my time there in the mornings when there is shade. I don’t sit here every day, but I do make it two or three days a week.

I spent a fair amount of time in August picking vegetables-green beans, okra, tomatoes, zucchini, snow peas, and beets, etc. Then I started preparing them for the freezer. The tomatoes so far have been in the form of sauce. I plan to make a big pot of chili this afternoon with some of the tomatoes left.

The only fruit we had enough of to put up were a few blueberries which are in the freezer and some American plums that I boiled down into jam. I discovered this type of plum is naturally high in pectin, so you don’t have to add any for it to gel. I have six jars in the refrigerator. Three of them are plain plum jam and the other three are plum ginger. I grated some ginger root from the freezer into the second batch of jam for extra flavor complexity.

In between all this, I did a pretty good job on my reading list for August, so here is what I have for you.

  1. A Christmas by the Sea-Melody Carlson

Wendy Harper inherits a cottage in Seaside, Maine from her grandfather. She needs to sell it to pay off medical bills from her late husband and other bills. So, she and her son Jackson head to the cottage to get it ready to sell. Except Jackson thinks they are moving there. He loves everything about the place and Wendy does too, including a stray dog and a local bachelor. I thought the ending was rather sudden and unrealistic, but I enjoyed the book, nonetheless.

2. N’ice Cream-Mikkonen & Tallion (Cookbook)

These recipes are complex but may be worth the effort. I saved the one for vanilla ice cream to get me started. I can always add things to it to change the flavor. The recipe I saved has cashews. This will be my first time with a cashew-based ice cream, so it should be interesting!

3.The Blue Zones Kitchen, 100 Recipes to Live to 100-Dan Buettner (Cookbook)

I love the whole Blue Zones movement of studying cultures of the longest lived people! My favorite recipe is for the sweet potato and black bean burger. It is relatively easy and delicious. It holds together well when cooking unlike many other veggie burgers I have made. I make extra and put them in the freezer. I highly recommend this book!

4. Artisan Ice Cream-Van Leeuwen (Cookbook)

 Most of the recipes in this book are a little too fancy/ unusual for me, but very fun to peruse.

5. The Keepers-Jeffrey A. Burton

Mace Reid makes his living with his family. His family happens to be a pack of scent sniffing dogs. They specialize in cadaver searches. One of his dogs, Vira, has special abilities. She is able to identify the scent of the killer from the corpse and identify the murderer when she encounters him. Burton’s books are awesome. They combine two of my favorite subjects, dogs and mysteries.

6. The Midnight Library-Matthew Haig

Nora Seed decides she doesn’t want to live any more. Shortly thereafter she finds herself at the Midnight Library. This is a place that houses books of every version of Nora’s life. She just selects each one she wants to experience until she finds the one, she wants to stay in. This novel is a book that makes you think. I’ve had it on my reading list for some time but hadn’t run across it. Turns out it’s in the science fiction section. Not sure I agree with that but regardless it is an enjoyable book.

7. The Best Is Yet to Come-Debbie Macomber

Hope Goodwin is learning to navigate life without her twin brother after his death. Cade Lincoln Jr is learning to live his life even though his best friends lost theirs’ in Afghanistan. They both volunteer at the local animal shelter where Hope rehabilitates Shadow, a large dog who everyone else thought was a lost cause. Hope deals with trouble at her job as a high school counselor while Cade has his own conflicts to handle. Can they maintain a relationship through all these problems? You’ll enjoy finding out.

8. The Magnolia Bakery Handbook (Cookbook)

This is a gorgeous cookbook. The recipes aren’t overly difficult. They start with a base recipe and move on to other flavor variations. The best part of this book was all the handy tips including the how and why of how to employ them. With a little practice you too can make some of the famous Magnolia Bakery treats.

9. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home-Jenn Britton Bauer (Cookbook)

I have yet to try Jeni’s ice cream, but I will now. She’s from my home state-Ohio! I gained a lot of knowledge of the science of ice cream from this book. I’m not going to try these recipes right now because I’m focusing on dairy free ice creams for the time being. I will return to this book at some point. I am happy with the information I gained here about the process of ice cream making. Reading Jeni’s story was also fun.

10. Salad Freak-Jess Damuck (Cookbook)

I don’t know that I need the actual directions for the recipes, but the ideas for some of the combinations are quite different. Some novel and fun ideas. Check this book out for some unique meal or side ideas.

11. Kingdom of Bones-James Rollins

This is a high adventure book of the Indiana Jones type. Three different groups of people work together to try to find a cure for a natural giant virus and stop the bad guys while caring for those afflicted by disease. The story switches back and forth from the medical personnel to those trying to stop the bad guy in his fortress, to another party out in the jungle looking for a cure. There is even an impressive military canine involved. A fast paced and engaging read.

12. Vegan a la Mode-Hannah Kaminsky (Cookbook)

The ice cream flavors are unusual and require ingredients I don’t have on hand even after stocking up to make nondairy ice creams.

Magazines-Victoria Classics Tea Pleasures, Vintage Cottage Style, Better Homes & Gardens Flower Gardening, Mingle

Fostering is Rewarding

Shetland Sheepdog
This is Max!
Shetland Sheepdog
And this is Pitusa!

We have had foster dogs again! It has been a long time. Two and a half years to be exact. Our last foster dog was Claire, and you know how that went since she is the most recent addition to our pack.

We haven’t fostered much in recent years. Once we got Zekie, he was all we could handle with the other dogs. (Zekie the Wonder Dog) He has calmed some over the years he has been here, or maybe we are just used to him. There’s also the miracle of Prozac in his life. (Good News-A Somewhat Calmer Zekie Bear) After Zekie was with us for about two and a half years we fostered again when our rescue group received an influx of five dogs at one time. One of those was Claire, who came into rescue with the name of Topanga! She never left.

I want to say that she was here for so long because of Covid isolation that I couldn’t bear to give her up. In fact, I have claimed this for a long time. However, I fear that the truth is closer to…now that I am retired and home with the dogs all the time, I get too attached to them and can’t let them go. And so, between that and the fact that we had six dogs, we took a sabbatical from fostering dogs.

We lost our oldest pack member, Nikki, last autumn at 14 years of age. (Miss Nikki Pouncer Pants: A Tribute) That put us back down to only five dogs. We made the decision that we could do short-term fostering again if the need arose. And we got the call that there was a need last week. Next thing I knew, I was in my car on the way to pick up two shelties from our rescue’s intake coordinator. They are named Max and Pitusa. I know, I was surprised by the female’s name too. Apparently, Pitusa means “sweet, funny little girl” in Spanish. And as I discovered, she is aptly named.

Max and Pitusa were sent to a boarding kennel because their owners were no longer able to care for the dogs due to their own failing health. They are one male and one female Shetland Sheepdog. They are 10 years old and appear to have led good lives and been well cared for. I am unclear as to whether they are siblings, but they are a bonded pair. And they already had a new home awaiting them. They just needed somewhere to stay from Wednesday until today (Monday), when transport was arranged.

This was the perfect set up for me, and they turned out to be perfect house guests. They were well mannered, sweet, friendly, and a little playful. I picked them up last Wednesday and put them into crates in the back of my car for the trip home. We didn’t get far down the road before the whining and yipping started. I put a podcast on my cell phone and the dogs quieted down for the rest of the 40 minute trip home. When I got home all of our dogs were outside except for Shelby who doesn’t do the pasture anymore. I brought Max and Pitusa inside and they met Shelby and our three cats. The new dogs were perfectly behaved, briefly sniffing the other animals and then keeping to themselves. Shortly thereafter, I brought the rest of our dogs inside in groups of two to meet our guests. There were some brief bouts of sniffing and that was it. Dogs, okay, cats, okay. Oh, look, a soft bed to lay down on.

At bedtime, I put the two foster pups in crates side by side in the dining room. They did quite a bit of whining and woofing. It took me a number of times coming back downstairs to squirt them with a water filled squirt bottle for barking to get through the night. I discovered that the crates were the problem for these two. I don’t think they had ever been crated before judging from their reactions. As I got to know them, I discovered that they were so well behaved that the only thing we used the crates for were mealtimes. We crate dogs at mealtimes to ensure that everyone eats their own food and no one else’s. It also prevents food related scuffles between dogs. Max and Pitusa were fine at night without being crated and we even went away and left them loose in the house or while we were working outside. No trouble at all. Let me point out that this is NOT typical for foster dogs, or any new dogs, coming into an unfamiliar house. I don’t believe I have ever left any dogs uncrated until they have been at our house for some time, and I am confident that all will be well. It just goes to show that there is always an exception, or in this case, two.

Max and Pitusa acted like they had always lived here from the moment they walked in the door. They got along with everyone, showing absolutely no aggression. They were completely relaxed, drinking from the water bowl with the others, following the humans from room to room with the others, running down the back stairs and out the door to do their business when everyone else did. They blended right in.

Shetland Sheepdog
Pitusa snoozing on the couch.

From the first day, Pitusa would come up to either my husband or me and paw us so that we would pet her. She would also give us a big grin to let us know that she was happy to have our attention.

Shetland Sheepdog
Max giving me a Class A smile!

Max was also good at giving happy grins. His favorite thing to do in the evenings was to sleep with his head on my foot. I think I loved it as much as he did.

The only notable difference with having these two here was in trying to navigate the house when all the dogs were laying down. Seven dogs take up a bit more real estate than five. It was a bit of an obstacle course trying to move from room to room. As soon as Max realized that I was going somewhere, he got up to follow me anyway. And these pups are only around 25 pounds, so they didn’t take up a lot of room.

We greatly enjoyed their stay, and we got to show them off. We are a family of dog lovers. My mother-in-law came to meet them one day and my daughter came the next day to meet the new dogs. So, I anticipate that we will be doing short-term fostering again since it was such a success. I doubt that the next dog will be as easy as these two, but that is not necessary. We do what we can for the rewards of being able to make a difference. I even told our intake coordinator, if we get a dog that comes into rescue and has a home scheduled but just needs some work before they are ready for placement, I think we are up for it!

I dropped Max and Pitusa off this morning for the next leg of their transport and they are probably in their new, permanent home as I write this. I am sure they will be happy. We found a home where they can stay together with one of our previous adopters, so I know they will be well loved. Have a good life little ones! It was a joy having you here, and I even got to include you in my post for National Dog Day.

National Dog Day
Our resident dogs at the time of National Dog Day.

A Busy Weekend

Sheltie mix
Zekie is a happy boy!

It seems like I have nothing going on for the longest time and then everything happens at once. Most of my days consist of watering, gardening and taking care of animals. Maybe picking some vegetables and cooking. And then suddenly I am a social butterfly. We had three things scheduled over the weekend!

Petting a dog
Shelby getting pats.

It started on Friday when my sister-in-law came with my nieces for lunch and a swim in the pool. This is an end of summer, pre-back to school tradition for all of us. I make a fancy lunch, lol…not! I make what I know the girls will like. We had peanut butter and jelly, cucumbers, and my older niece’s favorite, barbeque potato chips. I know the girls are growing up because this year they even ate cheese quesadillas that I made. We finished the meal off with homemade sundaes consisting of cookies and cream ice cream, brownie bits, Cool Whip, and chocolate sauce on top. Yum!

I caught my younger niece who claims to be afraid of dogs, leaning over to pet Shelby several times. Actually, she hasn’t been afraid of Shelby in a long time. Shelby has that effect on people. I have had more than one person who said they were afraid of dogs be okay around Shelby. She is so calm and reliable that people can sense it.

The girls also each got a chance to play the drums before they went home. The drums are a hit with all the kids that come over. I used the time to catch up with my sister-in-law. She is awesome. I love visiting with her. I wish everyone enjoyed their family as much as I enjoy mine!

On Saturday, I attended our annual sheltie rescue picnic at a member’s home. It is great to visit with other members in person, especially after so many Covid induced Zoom meetings. Dogs are also welcome at the picnic. I took Zekie, Shelby, and Baxter. Cassius and Claire had to stay home. I felt bad for them but three dogs is the limit of what I can handle by myself. The photo at the top is of Zekie at the picnic. He was so happy to go away with his momma. Any day that I am not out of his sight is a good day for him. Shelby went because she is never any trouble, and she is my right-hand girl. Although Baxter is not a sheltie, he has been to every sheltie rescue picnic that I have gone to, and he is the ranking senior dog of our pack. All three dogs were well behaved, and I was proud of them. Zekie even got along with all the other dogs that showed up. He wagged and sniffed every time there was a new arrival. Sometimes I see him watch Shelby and Baxter, to see what their reaction to new arrivals and unexpected things are.

The people in our rescue group are the best. They are a supportive, kind, thoughtful, caring group of people and I am honored to call many of them friend. This group of people really is in it for the dogs, not the glory.

And on Sunday, there was even more to look forward to. We went to my daughter’s house and hung out with her and her family. I love hanging out with my daughter. I understand where the saying “A daughter is someone who grows up to be your best friend” came from. We looked at flowers in her gardens, ate pizza, and talked and talked. A fine day. This time Baxter, Zekie, and Cassius got to go along. Baxter and my daughter have a mutual adoration, so he had to go. Zekie must be near me at all times, so he went too. And Cassius got to go because he had to stay home the day before. And don’t think he wasn’t mad at me for having to stay home from the picnic. When he got up on the couch that evening, he put his head in my husband’s lap and not mine which is highly unusual. You must pay, mummy!

Although the weekend was wonderful, life is now back to normal. Watering and gardening have resumed. Our efforts are beginning to pay off. Look at the size of this tomato! We tend to like the striped tomatoes best. They are juicy and sweet without all the acid of the red tomatoes. This one is a pineapple tomato and they do grow to be large. I believe this is the largest and most perfect one we have grown. I went to the garden looking for a tomato big enough to cover the bun for our sandwiches at dinner. This one was actually too big! No complaints here. We will enjoy it sliced with tomorrow’s lunch.

Peace to you, my friends.

Pineapple tomato
Pineapple tomato

Flowers of Summer

Hardy Amarillys
Hardy Amarillys

Our flowers and gardens are approaching their peak as the summer wears on. The hardy Amarillys is such a unique flower. The leaves come up early in the summer and are long and flat, similar to hyacinth leaves. I did not know about these flowers until I moved here twenty years ago and discovered them on the property. I thought they were not doing well or were not happy where they were planted. If you are familiar with this plant, you will know that part of its normal life cycle is that the leaves die back to the ground. Then after a week or so, you see a stalk sprouting in the center of where the leaves had been. And this stalk grows quickly. Within a few days it is over two feet tall and blooms with a few large trumpet shaped flowers!

I had to research on-line to discover that these flowers are the hardy Amarillys. They are also an interesting plant because they go by a couple of aliases. They are often referred to as Naked Ladies. Because they lose all their foliage before blooming. The flower stands alone.

Last month I discovered a third name for this flower when I was reading a fiction book, The Heirloom Garden by Viola Shipman. It was on my list of books read for last month. Books I Read in July 2022. Apparently, they are also called Surprise Lilies because you think the plant has died and then, surprise, you get the unexpected gift of a flower! I think this is my favorite name of all for them. A Surprise Lily sounds so magical.

Mand
Mandevilla

Many other flowers around the yard and gardens are taking off too. The red Mandevilla is one that I wintered over from last year. It took a long time to hit its stride after losing so many leaves over the winter but now it is in full bloom with more buds on the way. The root ball was large, and it has woody stalks, so I expect it to perform well for the rest of the season.

Hardy Hibiscus
Hardy Hibiscus

Another hardy version of plant that I am happy with is the Hardy Hibiscus. This perennial is only in its second year at our house. We discovered that it does not grow back from its stalks. You should cut it to the ground, and it will come back from the ground up. Ours was the last to bloom in the area, but this doesn’t seem like a problem to me since it is a young plant. If you live in a northern zone and want your hibiscus to come back year after year, make sure you get a hardy hibiscus and not a tropical one. We have a tropical hibiscus also but realize that it is just an annual for us. I tried to winter a tropical hibiscus over in the house a couple years ago, but it did not survive.

Pink gladiolus
Pink Gladiolus
Yellow gladiolus
Yellow Gladiolus
Fancy Pink Gladiolus
Fancy Pink Gladiolus

And then there are my ever-faithful gladioli. I dig the bulbs up each fall after frost and store them in paper bags in the basement. And each fall I wonder, is it worth it? One year I dug up 80 bulbs! I plant them again in the month of May and then we wait. They start blooming in late July and peak in August. It is then that I decide it is worth it. Come October, we get a hard frost, and the entire cycle starts again. Most years I get more bulbs out of the ground than I put in. This is good because there are always a few that I slice in half with the shovel. Oops!

Glads along the fence.
Glads growing in front of the patio fence.
Rose of Sharon and Phlox
Rose of Sharon and Phlox

I’ll leave you with one last photo of some old standbys that you couldn’t get rid of if you wanted to. The pink phlox on the right seems to end up everywhere and tries to take over. It grows by runners underground. I pulled out a couple bushels of it from the flowerbed next to the house this spring. I do this every other year. If I don’t, it outcompetes the other plants and you end up with nothing but phlox. One bonus is the hummingbirds love phlox. Sometimes I am bent over weeding, and I hear the hum from the beating of their wings and when I look up, there they are. I often hear the hummingbirds before I see them. Occasionally we stare at each other eye to eye for a while before they flit away.

The pink flowered tree-like plant on the left is a Rose of Sharon. They reseed themselves everywhere. We frequently weed them out. There are so many that sprout, most often in inconvenient places. We have transplanted several and given a few away as well.

If all plants were as easy to grow as phlox and the Rose of Sharon, there would be little challenge in gardening!

Books I Read in July 2022

Patio view
I often read here!

You may notice lots of ice cream “cookbooks” this month and next month too. I bought an electric ice cream maker and am trying to perfect the art of dairy free ice cream. I can eat dairy products with no problem and the regular ice cream recipes I have tried turned out pretty well. Not everyone in my family is so lucky, so I am seeing if I can conquer the lactose or dairy free versions. I tried making the regular versions just substituting almond milk and coconut milk. It just didn’t work. The product had good flavor but was so hard, it was basically a block of ice milk. Back to the drawing board.

I did make time to read some other books in July too. Some days it was hot enough that I refused to go outside in the afternoons. Reading is always a better option when it’s more than 90 degrees outside!

  1. From Strength to Strength-Arthur C. Brooks (Non-Fiction)

I picked this book up because on the cover it says, “Finding success, happiness, and deep purpose in the second half of life”. Sounds perfect for someone (me) who retired a couple years ago, right? I am sorry I spent my time reading this book. The book spent a major portion of it telling me how people suffer a professional decline and lessening abilities as they age. Then it cited numerous examples of such. By the end, I was feeling pretty incompetent. The last couple of chapters do offer some good advice, but I did not find it to be worth the effort.

2. One Italian Summer-Rebecca Serle

I enjoyed this book. After the death of Katy’s mother, she takes the trip to Italy that they had planned to take together. Katy’s mother was her best friend, and she is lost without her. While she is there Katy becomes friends with…her mother who is 30 years younger. Katy gains insights into her mother’s life and actions that she never expected. She also learns a lot about herself. Normally, I don’t like books that bring fantasy into real life experiences, but I did enjoy this one. I do like books in the fantasy genre that occur in different worlds. Just my quirk.

3. The Heron’s Cry-Ann Cleeves

British Inspector Matthew Venn and his detectives have their hands full trying to solve this case before there are more murders. The book requires close attention to detail to keep up with the plot but is well worth it. Artist Eve keeps discovering bodies that have been killed with broken pieces of her glasswork. The first body is that of her father. They are also a few suicides that make us wonder just what is going on here. I couldn’t figure out who did it until very near the end.

4. Icebox Pies-Lauren Chatman (Cookbook)

Many delicious looking recipes but I am unlikely to make any of them. Most involve heavy cream or other sources of dairy and we have multiple lactose intolerant people in our family as noted above.

5. Vice Cream-Jeff Rogers (Cookbook)

This is a book of vegan ice cream recipes. I am not likely to make these. Nearly all use maple syrup or honey dates as a sweetener and I think they overpower the other flavors. Also, the fruit based recipes call for a juicer which I do not have.

6. The Year of Magical Thinking-Joan Didion (Non-Fiction)

Joan Didion and her husband John Dunne were successful writers. They were married for 40 years before John’s sudden death from a heart attack. Both worked from home so they were near constant features of each other’s lives. Their only child went into a 2 month coma 5 days before John’s death and then suffered from ongoing health problems.

7. The Heirloom Garden-Viola Shipman

Iris Maynard has been alone since her husband died in World War II and her daughter died from illness a few years later. After another traumatic event Iris walled in her yard hasn’t left for years. A troubled family rents the house that Iris owns next door to her own. The stipulation is they are to have no contact with Iris. Children have minds of their own, so this ends up being impossible. Iris is a retired botanist and the family loves flowers and gardening. A story of how we are better together than alone. A moving and enjoyable book with a bit of science thrown in.

8. The Southern Vegetarian-Burks & Lawrence (Cookbook)

Many of these recipes look delicious but they are more work than I am willing to put in and I am not a lazy cook. I did get some ideas for meals that I will put my own spin on to make them easier.

9. Melt, Ice Cream Sensations to Make at Home-Claire Kelsey (Cookbook)

The recipes in this book are complex and most use unusual ingredients. I am never likely to make them. That being said, check this book out! It is fun and the pictures are beautiful. I also enjoyed reading about how the author’s food truck that sells ice cream came into being.

10. The Friendship Pact-Jill Shalvis

Tae Holmes and her mother tell each other everything except for one very big secret her mother has kept hidden. The secret has the potential to change everything. Tae is also distracted by the sudden appearance of Riggs, her first fling way back in high school. Riggs turns out to have her back. Always.

Sorry for some less than positive reviews this time, but hey, you can’t like them all.

My recommendation from this list is The Friendship Pact if you want a good beach read type of book. You can never go wrong with Jill Shalvis. If I see her name on a book, I will pick it up. If you are looking for a book to make you think, go for The Heron’s Cry.

Views from the Patio, 7/23

View from the patio
My view from the patio this morning.

It’s a patio type of morning for me. The weather is predicted to be hot today, and for nearly the entire country, not just here. So, I am spending some time outdoors before things heat up. My trusty canine companions are with me, except for Shelby who opted to stay in the house.

Due to some recent rains, I have been able to skip watering for the past several days saving me hours of work. What a treat! Except for the container plants. They look droopy by afternoon and long for a splash of water on their roots. We oblige them because we do not want unhappy hibiscus, mandevillas, gardenias, and such. They make views from the patio so much better!

Patio view
Patio time!

I have been thinking about the nature of friends in current times. Relationships have changed. I’m not sure if this is for good or bad. Probably a little of each as most things are or maybe only different.

I ponder why they have changed. My first thought is, we live in an electronic age. My second thought is we live in the time of Covid. Both have certainly changed things. People have cell phones and computers. Even most television viewing is by streaming rather than a live broadcast so we don’t even all get our news at the same time. We no longer use face to face interactions for the majority of our communications unless you count Zoom meetings and Facetime. We text, we email, and occasionally call. I am a believer that texts and emails can make life easier, but they also cause problems. Some emails are lost, but the sender doesn’t know it. If the message does arrive, vocal nuances and facial expressions do not accompany it so the meaning may be mis-taken. Sending, “That’s great”, does not convey the sarcastic tone that may, or may not be implied. Irony and a questioning lilt that is implied with a tone of voice is lost. Misunderstandings occur and feelings get hurt. I imagine this must be something we have all experienced. I do believe that electronic communication is a beneficial and powerful tool. We just need to take care with how we use it.

Keeping in touch with friends electronically is the new norm. I don’t feel that I have as many close friends now because we are texting and Facebooking, but not really visiting. This is exacerbated by Covid protocols. I am just as guilty of this as anyone. But it does make for a different type of relationship. Or maybe part of it is the natural progression as we get older, we don’t have the same intensity of friendships because we all have our own families and lives to take care of.

When I was younger, I had friends that I frequently spent time with. Even entire weekends. We went places and did things and were a regular part of each other’s lives. Fast forward to today. Does this still hold true? Not so much. Admittedly, two of my closest friends of my adult life have both passed away. So, it’s beyond my, or their, control that we don’t hang out.

On the flip side, I have many more friends than I ever did. These friends are more of the acquaintance variety. I have made most of them virtually. Or I may have met them in person once and we became friends via Facebook. I have made friends through other friends, at parties, at animal rescue events, and through other activities I have been involved in. People that I would only have had contact with one time, have been converted into regular acquaintances.

Some of my friends, I have never met in person at all. We hooked up through different Facebook groups or maybe as friends of friends or we find we share common interests. I have even had some of these virtual friends for years. And these friendships are important to me. I care about these people, and I believe they care about me. We “like” each other’s posts and frequently have conversations about life experiences and day to day life. In times of trouble or sadness, we offer each other words of comfort and support. One of my Facebook friends that I have never met in person was recently diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of cancer. (Don’t give up, sometimes the doctor’s prognosis is wrong and there is more time to be had!) I am saddened by my friend’s diagnosis and think of her several times a day. My point is these types of friendships can have great value and be meaningful too.

I am blessed to live in an age where I can have friendships with people that live far away from me in distance, but we are close in spirit. I have reconnected with childhood friends and classmates, relatives that live far away. People I wouldn’t have the chance to be in touch with otherwise.

Now don’t get me wrong. I still have some friends that I visit with in person. Even a few new ones since I retired. And family members that I hang out with regularly. In fact, one of the best things is being friends with your adult daughter and your considerably younger brother and all the extended families that now come with them. I also know I am blessed that I love my family members and love spending time with them.

So, what is a friendship? I think it means different things to different people. May your friends be as dear to you as mine are to me.

Peace be with you!

Garden Gate
Appreciate all your friends!

Morning Musings from the Patio

view from the patio garden
My view on the patio.

Good morning, readers! This is my view as I write from the patio. I usually work outside in the gardens during the mornings when it is cool, but today I am doing something different. The patio is shaded in the morning and gets sunny after noon when the sun crests. This makes it hot and much harder to find a shady spot. So, the dogs and I are taking advantage of the beautiful morning.

Not only are the flowers a beautiful sight, they smell good too. With the humidity, the air is heavy and in addition to the usual roses, I smell the gardenias! We have a full-size gardenia, and a button gardenia which gets lots of small flowers. Their scent is heady and divine!

Dog with flower.
Zekie being a good sport.

I rarely spend time on the patio without the dogs. Above,Zekie is patient with my attempts to get a photo op. As long as he can be my constant companion, he is content. His separation anxiety and behavior are improving with the aid of Prozac. I spend a lot of time outdoors gardening and sometimes it is just too hot for the dogs to be outside. I have begun leaving the dogs loose in the house when I go out to work, going in to check on them every half hour or so. Zekie is getting used to it and handling it well. He lays on the landing at the top of the steps and watches me out the back door. Sometimes, I go out of sight, but he seems to be doing ok with it. He is always at the door to greet me when I open it and gives me a sniffing over to determine what I have been up to.

Big smile on a happy dog on the patio.
Being outside gives Baxter a big smile.

Baxter doesn’t like to have his picture taken. If he knows you are taking it, he turns his head to the side. It works best to zoom in from a distance and snap the photo. He has a great smile, so it is well worth the effort. He loves the futons but sometimes they get too hot for him. His second favorite place in the patio garden is under the dawn redwood tree where the cool soil is exposed. This makes a fine napping spot for a 13 year old dog.

Smiling dog in the patio garden.
Claire pauses to give a smile.

Taking pictures of Claire is rather like photographing toddlers. You have to take a lot of pictures to get one that is usable. About half of them are blurry because she is moving. Many of the rest result in her looking anywhere besides at the camera. She just has a very short attention span and is constantly turning to watch a bird or bee or running after a chipmunk. I am convinced she wouldn’t hurt them. Yesterday, she walked up within two feet of a wren that was getting a caterpillar from the ground. She stood there and watched the wren until it flew to the top of the fence, smacked its caterpillar on the fence a few times and then flew to its nest box on the opposite fence and fed its young. Claire has a busy mind. This is why she’s not the most obedient dog. She has too many other things to think about.

Greyhound sleeping on a futon. Patio garden.
Cassius relaxing.

This is Cassius’ typical position when he is on the patio. He loves the futons. Greyhounds do like to relax. And who can blame them with those bony legs? Cassius comes to me for pets from time to time but mostly he lays around napping and watching life go by. Not a bad deal.

Napping sheltie in a patio garden.
Shelby having a nap.

And this brings us to the matriarch of our pack. Shelby often joins us on the patio. She almost never goes out to the pasture with the other dogs, but she will deign to join us when we sit on the patio. Shelby doesn’t like to hang out with dogs. She will join us when we retire to the patio because I am always there too. And spending time with mom is life’s goal for her. She is a good companion and a true working partner. I can always count on her for therapy dog work and public events with our dog club such as volunteering at the county fair. Reliable is her middle name. She is 12 years old and slowing down. Now I direct her with hand signals to assist with her failing hearing. She is happy to respond, and we continue our work with these minor adjustments. That’s what teamwork is all about.

As I write this post, on the patio surrounded by our five dogs and many flowers, listening to the morning sounds of birds, I realize that I am blessed. I wish blessings to you also, my friends.

Peace be with you.

Books I Read in June 2022

Our patio

Hello Readers,

I hope you are enjoying your summer. Mercifully, the area I live in, northeast Ohio, has been spared many of the storms and wildfires that have been taking place in the rest of the country. Our weather has had some hot spells, but nothing like in the south and southwest. It has been dry, dry, dry though! We spend an hour and a half watering every other day. This includes the vegetable garden, various shrubs and flowers, hanging baskets, wall planters, and all the raised sandstone flowerbeds in our patio garden. Even with the various gardening chores and other commitments, I have made time to read. Mostly because I refuse to go outside when it is over 90 degrees! So, read on to see what my selections for June were.

  1. More Mediterranean-America’s Test Kitchen (Non-Fiction)

A cookbook to inspire eating for wellness. Many of the recipes look delicious. I finally decided I was never likely to prepare any of them because most require an ingredient or spice that I am never likely to have. Things like Za’atar, fenugreek, and fresh fennel. If you’re looking for a healthy challenge though, this may well be the book for you.

2. Death by Chocolate Chip Cupcake-Sarah Graves

Jake and Ellie are back in this series featuring a chocolate themed bakery located in Eastport, Maine. The murders they solve this time are based on an old theme, who can get out of the haunted mansion alive, when the pair caters the desserts for a dinner for the new owner, a fading movie star. Jake manages to survive more mishaps and wounds than you would think possible. This series has Maine, the ocean, chocolate, and good friends. How can you go wrong? I think this is my favorite book in this series so far. It is enjoyable and amusing.

3. Rule Your Day-Joel Osteen (Non-fiction)

This is an inspirational book from the pastor of Lakewood Church, America’s largest church. The author tells us how to be successful in our lives, citing Bible stories and applying them to current times. Oddly enough, many of the suggestions are things I’ve read from business articles. Such goodies as, don’t hang around with people who pull you down. Although I am a Christian and familiar with the Biblical references, I think this book would be beneficial for everyone. It provides useful advice that can be applied to your own life.

4. Our Country Friends-Gary Shteyngart

A group of friends gathers at a country house and its surrounding cottages in upstate New York to ride out the pandemic. They learn a lot about each other as they try to stay safe. They learn things about each other that they never expected. A group of three life long friends, an adopted Asian child, an arrogant actor, and others make up the cast who isolate to stay safe from the Covid pandemic. This book was not my cup of tea. I am ready to move on to a more cheerful read. I may have appreciated it more if the pandemic was a thing of the past.

5. With Love from London-Sarah Jio

Valentina Baker is jilted by her boyfriend and then learns that her estranged mother has died and left her a bookshop in London. She hasn’t seen her mother since she left when Valentina was 12 years old. The book tells Valentina’s story as well as her mother’s. Things are not always as they seem. This is a book of friendship that explores roads not taken. This is a fun, feel-good book and I highly recommend it.

Magazines: Country Living, Yankee

My Helper

Zekie posing for the camera!

As much trouble as Zekie has been over the years, he is a great dog. Read about some of his antics at the following link. Zekie the Wonder Dog

His major problem is that he can’t stand to be away from me. At all. He starts to get worked up if I so much as go outside to get the mail. He is a little better since our vet put him on Prozac last year. Now when I go outside without him, he no longer jumps on the dining room table to watch me through the window. He just flings himself at me and jumps on me repeatedly upon my return, reveling in the joy of seeing me again. He is so ecstatic to see me that this often results in bruises for me, sometimes in the shape of a pawprint! It is hard to get too upset with him in the face of such adoration.

This brings me to today’s Zekie Tale. My husband has been hand digging a trench for a home maintenance project. He digs just a little each day and then goes on to another project. For the last week or so, the part he is digging crosses a corner of the dog pasture. The dogs are usually outside with my husband while he is digging. Hubby put up snow fence at my suggestion to keep the dogs, especially Cassius, a crazy greyhound prone to getting the zoomies, out of the construction site. I feared that in one of Cassius’ loops sprinting at top speed around the perimeter of the pasture, he would fall in the two-foot-deep trench and break a leg. Hence, the snow fence went up to prevent this. The dogs can still get to the trench area but have to go around the fence and past the piles of fill dirt to get there.

This portion of the project is nearing its end. I went outside today to help my husband with the last ten-foot section crossing the pasture. I was down in the trench, first doing a little shoveling of loose dirt out of the trench, and then just for fun, I tried picking with the mattock for a while to see what it was like. A lot of work, that’s what it was like!

The dogs have shown no interest in the project the entire time my husband has been out there working. Today, since I was out in the trench, things changed. Zekie watched me for a while. He got down in the end of the trench about 30 feet ahead of me. He looked around and then got out of the trench. A little while later Cassius came over to check out the trench. He looked at me a bit, hopped in the trench and soon jumped back out. Hubby and I looked up a bit later to see Zekie lying beside the trench with his head down in it. Shortly thereafter I checked on Zekie again. He was down in the trench, and he was using his front paws to dig. His efforts were making the trench longer. He looked up and saw us watching, so he kept digging. It was obvious he was helping us!

I told my husband, “Zekie is a people person”. My husband asserted that Zekie is not a person. I don’t think Zekie is aware of this. His mama was working on a project, so he joined right in. He wants to be a part of everything I do. If I could explain to him that if he kept control of himself, he could go more places with me, his would be a happier life. I have not given up hope. Zekie is eight years old now. That is the age my wonderful dog Duncan was when he went from being referred to as the sheltie from hell to my best friend.

Zekie gazing at is mama.