I Did It! Thirty Posts in Thirty Days!

I did it! I posted every day this month as a member of NaBloPoMo... on to April!

Happy Birthday Grayson and Junebug

Grayson and Junebug are one year old today. Happy Birthday to our youngest cats.

Gazing at the Stargazers

 The bouquet of lilies on the table is still dazzling! Stargazer lilies got their name because their big, beautiful blooms are turned up as though they are gazing at the night sky.

Easing Into Gardening

One way I ease into the gardening season is by immersing myself in garden reading. Between magazines, books, and online sources there are more reference materials than I could read in a lifetime. I need lots of reading and thinking time as I study the bare bones of the garden this time of year and take notes. What worked last year? What needs to be moved? What didn't grow well because of soil? What didn't grow well because of light? What was our biggest success? Failure?
Gardening is an ongoing gamble. There are so many variables that come into play such as winter weather, late frosts, soil changes, plants that weren't hardy, and winter kill. There is also that challenge of remembering what bulbs we planted last fall, what color they are, and where!
I try to do color schemes in the garden each year in my planters and pots. I have been pleased with many of the combination I have tried in the past. Right now I am leaning toward a red theme with some blue and purple accents. Doesn't that sound lovely?
I am also trying to figure out what needs to be moved and what needs to be divided. As I read more magazines, study more photos, read more books, and do more thinking the garden plans keep forming in my mind. Don't tell my husband I mentioned moving any plant. He runs away when he hears that!

Summer in a Jar: Salsa Five Months Later and a Keeper from the Recipe Box

When things get busy in the fall and we had more ripe tomatoes than we could take care of at the time, I just threw the ripe ones in ziplock bags and froze them. A few weeks ago I had to buy my first jar of salsa from the grocery store.
 I decided it was time to can another batch of my own salsa. Just in case the extra water added more weight I added more tomatoes than usual.
 One thing I discovered is the tomatoes are easier to work with after being frozen when it comes to removing skins and seeds.
 It smelled like late summer again in the kitchen as we chopped tomatoes, onions, green peppers, garlic, and hot peppers.I love how beautiful the combination of red and green looks in the pot as the salsa simmers.
The batch made eleven pints of salsa. I can't wait for the jars to cool a bit so we can sample some with tortilla chips. We will feel like we are back to late summer once again.
 Here is my recipe which I created after trying a variety recipes for salsa.I don't like anything hot and spicy so I go easy on the hot stuff. The ingredient I take out is cilantro since my husband doesn't like it. The ingredient I think is a must. Lime juice.

Christy’s Zesty Salsa
 10 cups tomatoes (seeded, cored, chopped)
(About 6 pounds)
5 cups chopped and seeded green peppers
2 ½  cups chopped hot peppers ( Anaheim and jalapeno are mild,
poblanos and serranors are hot…….add a few seeds to make it hotter.
I mix these types……..usually Anaheim and jalapeno.)
5 cups chopped onions
5 cloves garlic,minced
2 TB fresh cilantro, minced
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (optional)
1 cup cider vinegar
½ cup lime juice

Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 min. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars, leaving ¼ “ head space. Adjust two-piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner. Yield: about 6 pints.

Tip: If my tomatoes are watery I strain the mixture to keep the salsa from being soupy!

Gathering Around the Table: Sibling Assignment #150

 This week I assigned Sibling Assignment #150. One hundred and fifty posts is a feat in itself. Creating one hundred and fifty different topics to write about has been another feat. One joy of participating in the sibling assignments has been having that opportunity to link my writing with the fine writing of my brother and sister. Here is our celebratory assignment for this week. " To celebrate 150 reflect back on all our sibling assignments and pick three favorite images you have posted, link them in some way, and write about them."
 A perfect way to spend Sunday morning was to revisit the sibling assignments I have written. There were common themes in my photos: flowers, food, family, road trips, and my hometown. The photos that stood out to me the most centered around food. There is significance in the name of my blog. My life has been about gathering around the table.
 Whether eating, playing games, laughing, drinking, crying,fighting, doing homework, coloring Easter eggs, writing, doing crafts, preparing food, singing, praying, singing "Happy Birthday", making Mother's Day cards, telling jokes, sharing recipes,reading emails, or telling stories it has happened at tables in Kellogg, Orofino, Glendive,Spokane, Meridian, Kennewick, Kettle Falls, Inchelium, the Oregon Coast, Eugene, Prichard, Rose Lake, Konkleville, and Metaline Falls.
I have so many pictures of gatherings, table settings,fancy drinks, birthday celebrations, and desserts. These homemade cakes, new salad recipes, Tom and Jerrys, Mother's Day dinners, Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas Eve Around the World dinners, warm cookies, good coffee, Stingers, s'mores, and overnight breakfast casseroles have given me good reasons to gather around tables with family and friends.

In a Word: Close-Ups

 For my photography walk today I did close ups. I walked around the yard and captured the flowers inside the house  also. I found lots of subjects to practice my skills. Enjoy!

A blue spruce cone,

crocus opened up,

a bouquet of tulips,

and the maple tree in bud.

In A Word: Spring

 Spring has danced around me all week. I realize on the calendar it was the first day of spring, but we had freezing weather, sunshine, rain, freezing weather again, and gray, cloudy skies. This is typical of spring, but I always forget until spring rolls around again how much I love sunny days. I was a bit surprised to discover that it was warm enough to produce a few garden signs of spring this week. First I saw the primrose,

then some crocus,
a hyacinth ready to bloom,

 Shelby playing with her gear again,
 and a cat climbing a tree. Cats seem to do that more in spring.. I think they believe the birds will be there!

In a Word: Cats

"I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is infinitely superior." - Hippolyte Taine

Ask Me

Ask Me
by William Stafford

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

Everything Exists in the Word

 One of my favorite passages by Neruda on words:

You can say anything you want, yessir, but it's the words that sing, they soar and descend . . . I bow to them . . . I love them, I cling to them, I run them down, I bite into them, I melt them down . . . I love words so much . . . The unexpected ones . . . The ones I wait for greedily or stalk until, suddenly, they drop . . . Vowels I love . . . They glitter like colored stones, they leap like silver fish, they are foam, thread, metal, dew . . . I run after certain words . . . They are so beautiful that I want to fit them all into my poem . . I catch them in midflight, as they buzz past, I trap them, clean them, peel them, I set myself in front of the dish, they have a crystalline texture to me, vibrant, ivory, vegetable, oily, like fruit, like algae, like agates, like olives . . . And I stir them, I shake them, I drink them, I gulp them down, I mash them, I garnish them, I let them go . . . I leave them in my poem like stalactites, like slivers of polished wood, like coals, pickings from a shipwreck, gifts from the waves . . . Everything exists in the word . . . From Memoirs by Pablo Neruda (NY: Penguin, 1974), p. 53.

In A Word: Morning

 I want to enjoy early morning again. The cold, dark winter mornings made me want to sleep in and enjoy the warmth of the covers, two dogs, and a cat or two. Now that the light is coming earlier and the mornings are not so cold, I want to enjoy the sunrise and simple pleasures of morning. I read a recent interview of Mary Oliver and after reading it I revisited her poetry. This one spoke to me tonight.


 by Mary Oliver

Salt shining behind its glass cylinder.
Milk in a blue bowl. The yellow linoleum.
The cat stretching her black body from the pillow.
The way she makes her curvaceous response to the small, kind gesture.
Then laps the bowl clean.
Then wants to go out into the world
where she leaps lightly and for no apparent reason across the lawn,
then sits, perfectly still, in the grass.
I watch her a little while, thinking:
what more could I do with wild words?
I stand in the cold kitchen, bowing down to her.
I stand in the cold kitchen, everything wonderful around me.

Three Words: Mac and Cheese

 I have continued this week-end to experiment with food photos. As I read ways to photograph food I was amazed at the tips photographers suggested to get food to look so delicious and inviting in magazines and books. Tonight I experimented with macaroni and cheese. Here it is step by step:

SIbling Assignment #149: Vases

I gave the third of our sibling assignments with photography. " Create a collection...choose something that is easily accessible: soup bowls,cell phones, sofas, chairs, vases...whatever. Create a series of photographs on the collection all photographed the same way. Put them into a collage or a frame together. Write about the experience."

When I scrounge around yard sales and thrift stores I am always looking for vases for my vast collection. I particularly look for different sizes since the fresh cut flowers from my garden can have very short stems to long, long stems. A few of these vases have been gifts from people that know what I love! I also enjoy using unique canning jars for vases. They hold lots of flowers and with a little raffia around the neck, provide a bit of country charm. Old teapots and pitchers are also favorite vessels to hold flowers. The possibilities are endless. Today I photographed most of these vases on the piano shelf. The dark background worked well for most. The others moved to the window so the light could illuminate the blue and green.

Two Words: Strawberry Photos

I have been studying food photography recently trying new things and experimenting with light, styling, and composition. Here is a series of food photos I tried featuring strawberries.

Faceless St. Patrick's Day Photos

As I captured the wearing of the green today with my camera, not too many students even wanted to show their faces. It made the pictures much more interesting as I focused on the wearing of the green.