Saturday’s Stash

It’s hot like an oven here today and I was tempted to spend my $20.00 on a pitcher of lemonade and a beach pass, but instead went to the Asbury Park Farmer’s Market. It’s not much of a market really, just two farmer’s selling fruits and vegetables from the back of their trucks, plus a middle-aged couple with organic jams and relishes. Still, my $20.00 went quicker than it did far.

I bought a couple white potatoes (boring!) for $1.50, 6 ears of white corn for $2.00, a small mountain of string beans for $3.50, some corn relish for $7.00 and a little jar of sugar plum jam for $6.00. I’ve never had sugar plums or sugar plum jam, but the images of snow and cold were welcome today so I bought it just for the novelty.

So now I have this odd assortment of things that are just screaming to be served with a big juicy steak. Only I don’t much like meat.

Next weekend I plan to spend my $20 driving out to the middle of nowhere (for NJ at least) to a great U-Pick farm. I’ll make out good there, I’m sure.

Please stop by Vicki’s for a peak at her Market Day post.

When my hair was straight and white

This post is not at all about my hair, I promise. Except to say that I can remember my mom curling it with rags and an iron for holidays. She did this to me; trained it to misbehave like it does now, passed down this curse of curliness.


I’ve been looking through old photos the past couple days and, as often happens, I’m moved to write by something I find among them. My memory was tickled by images of platinum blonde hair and blue eyes, the cheesy baby-teeth grins, sun-touched skin, one of my brothers often with his hand in mine, a mind and body always moving and full of ideas; the daydreamer I am so obvious then.

I search in the mirror for that little girl now. I want to tell her that she has many gifts to offer and that fine things will unfold for her. She’ll need reminding one day that she’s a treasure, that she’s loved and cherised beyond words, that she’s smart and capable and that it’ll all be ok, no matter what happens.

Somewhere along our journey in life, many of us lose our resilience or forget that we are loved, that we’re not too much, that the world will carry and hold us and keep our hearts safe.

I don’t know what there is to bring back the feeling of being held in the most generous, open-handed of care as when we were children, but I believe that a part of our hearts spends a lifetime trying to get back to that beginning, back to that feeling of self-worth and total acceptance. And that joy; simple and uncomplicated.

A little Spencer love

There’s a certain joy about dogs that I think maybe cat people don’t get, or not as fully as the rest of us. I look at this smiling pic of Spencer (our boot camp mascot from the Adirondacks trip) – wet and smelly from rolling around in the bog – and I can’t help but smile myself. He had a small army of admirers in us and was a good tonic during the quiet times or when some of us (me!) were feeling cranky. I like the company of a dog in the woods or a walk on the beach and I’ve missed the quiet, well-behaved sort of companionship that an older dog provides since Buddy died last summer. Luka is fun on walks, but he’s not quiet enough for birds yet and insists on being the center of any attention with his goofiness. His specialty so far is comic-relief. (He’s doing donuts on the bed as I type this!)

Anyway… it was fun to have Spencer along and he was properly spoiled by us all. Someone was always sneaking him a bite of lunch or quietly cajoling him into some mischief.

He made himself a favorite photographic subject of mine and would often follow my attention on a particular patch of wildflowers (here, bunchberries) with his own sort of joyful attention. Like a good dog, Spencer did a lot of rolling in stuff.

That rolling around and looking cute was a ploy of his and he used it to his advantage whenever possible. How can anyone resist a three-legged dog having so much fun?

Don’t let the doleful expression fool you – that’s another ploy! He’s just trying to get you close enough for a splash.

One of my favorite pics from the trip – I think Linda’s smile says it all. She’s a dog person, obviously. She gets it.


Enjoy the quiet

“When the flute players
couldn’t think of what to say next

they laid down their pipes,
then they lay down themselves
beside the river

and just listened.
Some of them, after a while,
jumped up
and disappeared back inside the busy town.
But the rest —
so quiet, not even so thoughtful —
are still there,

still listening.”

–Mary Oliver

I’m tired of talking. I plan to just listen for a little while. Enjoy the quiet.


God’s square mile

I spent a little time yesterday poking my camera into some of the living rooms and sleeping porches in the tent city at Ocean Grove. I’m there at least once a week with work, but usually avoid the maze of one way streets around the Great Auditorium and instead ogle the old Victorian homes on the other side of town. It’s a great little shore oddity and one that I remember visiting as a kid. My dad brought me for Sunday services in the huge open air Auditorium back when a blue law banned cars in town on Sundays.

The town was founded as a leisure-time retreat by Methodists and descendants of those founders still come to Ocean Grove to sleep in tents for the summer and to pray by the sea. There’s a hundred-some tents and they’re laid out within inches of one another in rows around the auditorium. A more permanent structure makes up the back of each – with electric and plumbing! – and the front of the tent is reserved as a sitting/sleeping space. They’re very cute and not nearly as rustic as one might imagine.

Other ramblings about Ocean Grove are available here.

Saturday Shopping Challenge

Vicki at A Mark on My Wall which, coincidentally, is one of my favorite blogs in the neighborhood, posted a challenge a couple weeks ago to see how far $20 would go at a local farmer’s market. Up for a challenge, but not so much the shopping or cooking part, I thought I’d play along and see how far that $20 would get me in local produce that didn’t require much fussing before tasting good.

Jersey tomatoes are just in and will be sublime in another couple weeks. The four I bought today for $6.13 (ouch!) don’t have much flavor, but mixed with garden-grown basil and my splurge for the day – locally-made mozarella – just under a pound for $8.81 and drizzled with olive oil and a dash of sea salt and black pepper made me very, very happy this evening. Once the supply increases the prices will go down and there is nothing finer than a Jersey tomato, let me tell you! Our growing conditions are perfect for them here, tho we have to wait until August for the really delicious and juicy ones that we make into kitchen sink sandwiches with lots of mayo and pepper. Heaven between two slices of bread!

I was hoping for corn, but there was only Georgia sweet corn for 49 cents an ear. Too steep for my budget today. Last week I bought nice Jersey bi-color corn that I made into corn salad with red peppers. Yummy. Sweet corn should be available by month’s end and is creamy, tender and scrumptious. I know quite a few people who can make a meal of it all by itself. Not me; it doesn’t agree with me and I have to limit myself to just one ear, preferably on the BBQ.

Mid-July is only the start of farmer’s market season here in NJ, so there wasn’t a great variety. Greens are in season: kale, collards and swiss chard, but I think of those primarily as bunny food, so discounted them for today. Beets are local and cheap – just $1.89 for a nicely sized bunch. I love fresh beets, but don’t often go to the trouble to stain the kitchen or my hands purple with making them. Steaming-hot and drenched with butter is the way I like them best, but today I mixed them with some red onion and raspberry vinegar and fresh-squeezed orange juice for a cold salad. We’ll see how that turned out tomorrow once it’s had a chance to pickle a bit.

The real story locally is the berries. These are the most local of berries, grown in the farm fields just off my backyard, and they sit on the bushes until they are at the peak of ripeness and flavor. There are red, purple and black raspberries, as well as blackberries grown out there and were it not for the deer fence surrounding the fields, I think I would raid the bushes on my walks with Luka. I bought a pint of red raspberries for $4.99 and a pint of Jersey blueberries for $2.99 and cooked them gently with sugar and poured the sweet mixture over some vanilla ice-cream. The leftovers will be added to plain yogurt mixed with honey and some granola or eaten anytime I walk through the kitchen!

All that’s missing until the late summer is peaches. Jersey peaches should be available at farmer’s markets by next weekend. California peaches are sweet and juicy now, but I passed on them today in favor of NJ produce.

If you’re a stickler and do the math, you’ll see that I went over budget and spent $24.81. I could have left off the raspberries in favor of being under budget, but I just love them too much! I don’t think my money went very far today, but as I said, it isn’t quite the season of abundance here.

If you’re up for the challenge, I imagine Vicki may be doing this in the weeks to come. Maybe you’d like to join in the fun. Why not at least stop by her place for links to see how others spent their $20? Or read about her adventures as a docent at a zoo in Chicago? Or her home-away-from-home in Florida? Really, her blog is great… stop in and say hi.

Make it stop (spinning)

There are days when the office feels like a nuthouse and others, like today, when it’s almost a nice place to be. Of course the weather was gorgeous and the thought of sneaking off to the beach occurred to me more than once (it’s Friday and payday, after all) but I was glad to sit at my desk and make some headway, one ear listening to Justin Nozuka and the other to the silly raucous banter that goes on during a typical Friday.

Because we social workers all have different field days, the office dynamic changes from day to day depending on who’s in. Fridays are a favorite office day for me; I like the mix of people. There’s just 7 of us, plus the clerical staff, so it’s relatively quiet, especially compared to Tuesday’s when all 18 of us are there. I loathe Tuesdays: for their noise, the incessant phone ringing, the emergencies that have popped up over the weekend, my phone blinking with 25 messages after spending Monday in the field visiting clients.

This week was a crazy upside-down week for me. I got a lot done and finally got the nerve up to ask for help with all the stuff I’ve been behind with. Two new social workers who’ve joined the unit since me needed practice and were glad to have some of my work to do.


I hadn’t really dealt with my voicemail messages since last Friday. I finally, painfully, listened to them all, all the way through, today at about 3. Amazingly, most of the *emergencies* of the past week had worked themselves out without any intervention on my part. That was a valuable lesson to me. Sometimes procrastination pays off.

The lady who’d first left a message over the weekend, full of so much hostility that I simply slapped the phone closed mid-message on Monday, called today to say that she had worked it all out and actually solved one of her own problems for a change.


And then she thanked me for my help.


Seven of my clients have moved in the past month (each move requiring a telephone book’s worth of paperwork). Three are about to be evicted for non-payment of rent (in each case, both the tenant and the landlord seem to think I wield some magic wand to make it all okey-dokey and one wants my help in running off to Arkansas to avoid a court date). Two families have bedbug and/or roach infestations. One tenant, a hoarder, insists on my help in finding a new, bigger place in which to pile up his crap. The roof fell in on the apartment of another. A landlord complains about the expense of replacing bullet-shot windows and siding. Another’s adult daughter will be released from the psychiatric hospital this month, pregnant, with no place to live.

But all that’s for next week.

Now it’s the weekend.

(In case you wonder, I work for this program and not, as I sometimes imagine, this one.)

And, no, I haven’t posted this pic upside down. It was taken in the fall at the Cape May hawk-banding demo and the red-tail was twirling around in the speaker’s hand, spinning in circles, and paused feet-up for my pic.


azure moss sapphire forest cobalt fern navy kelly cerulean emerald indigo tea cornflower shamrock sea denim pine midnight army periwinkle pine sky hunter steel jade tiffany olive ultramarine celadon baby camouflage turquoise

Have I missed any?

Do you know that some world languages don’t make the distinction between blue and green in the same way we English speakers do?

Easy for me to imagine when looking over the photos I took. On that last day in the Adirondacks, we spent the morning hours waiting for the clouds to move off the top of Whiteface Mountain so we could make our way up. Those clouds and the shadows they moved over the forest and lakes rendered it all very beautiful in varying shades of blue and/or green.


A big can of crushed tomatoes… nice olive oil… sweet onion and lots of garlic… fresh parsley… a bit of red wine… and I had sauce! That I cooked! Without setting the kitchen on fire!


Really, it’s not as bad as that, but I did have to wait for the DH to come home and open the bottle of wine. What is the matter with me that at 38 I still don’t know how to use a corkscrew?

You should know that actually having a corkscrew in the house is an improvement. There was an occasion when my dad was living here and wanted wine with his spaghetti dinner. There were plenty of dusty bottles of wine around, but no corkscrew. If you could have seen the two of us and the mutilation we inflicted on that cork with a knife to get at the wine.


A co-worker who lurks here had pity on my culinary skills and emailed me his recipe with nicely detailed instructions. Which I promptly deleted in one of my *clear-the-inbox* frenzies. So Tony, would you send me that recipe again, so I won’t have to improvise the next time I feel like spaghetti? Please?

It was pretty nice, btw. Needed something though.

If anyone has a nice, easy recipe they’d like to share, that would be fun, too. I need all the help I can get.


#22 in my 38 by 39.

More Adirondack treats

We spent all day Sunday on dirt roads bisecting land owned by various paper companies – no electrical or phone lines, no cell towers, nothing but miles and miles of forest. I’d about had it by noontime, when this really started to feel like birding boot camp, but things picked up and the weather finally cleared and the darn bugs gave it a rest.


Plus, there were new wildflowers and other nerdy people to enjoy them with.

Viper’s Bugloss: a pretty roadside weed. That gorgeous shade of blue gives away its place in the borage family.

Scott thigh-deep in ferns trying to call in Barred Owls: no luck, but he managed to really t-off a family of Sapsuckers. They are very excitable birds!

We found a real treat late in the day; begging calls from a dark swampy place off the side of the road led us to this baby Black-backed Woodpecker. If you squint your eyes you can see one of the parents feeding it at the nest entrance. Click on the pic! We also had really nice looks at Ruffed Grouse – a hen with two chicks along the side of the road.

Dogbane was just coming into flower and drew in this Atlantis Fritillary…

and lots of Clearwing Moths which are impossible to photograph well, I think.

Prettiest bird of the day was this singing Mourning Warbler – a gorgeous and cooperative male photographed by Scott. You knew already I didn’t take that pic, right?


At day’s end, I guilted the others into the obligatory group shot. Note Spencer in the foreground snapping up bugs!