Road Trip Food: Monster Cookies

About fifteen years ago our family set up the Oregon coast as a central gathering place for a family vacation. Any time we travel we have good meals and lots of treats. That trip I made Monster Cookies. A parent of a student had shared this recipe about twenty years ago. My friend Gigi at Rose Lake made them for band bake sales for her children at University High School. I loved to make them, but I can't remember the last time I did.

That has all changed. I am preparing for a sibling road trip on Monday that will take us from northern Idaho, through Missoula and Lolo Montana, then down Highway 12 to Three Rivers Resort. I couldn't think of a better road food than Monster Cookies. I can also leave some home for Everett, take some to my mom, and leave some with my sister's family.

Monster cookies were first called these because people made them really big for bake sales. Sometimes they are called Kitchen Sink Cookies because you can add whatever you want for the add-ins. Most of the recipes have the same basic dough. You can do a search and see lots of variations. This one at
Just a Taste  was the closest to what I made.

I used regular sized M&Ms and chips. Other add in ideas:
white chocolate chips
peanut butter chips
rice krispies
peanut M&Ms
and the list is a bit different in seaching other recipes.

They are really worth a try and they freeze well. Enjoy!

The Science of Canning

I really enjoy canning and preserving food. It is such a sense of accomplishment to take food and prepare it and put it in jars and can it. I used to think there was a science to all of it. I heard horror stories about botulism and other poisoning from my mother and Mrs. Macri, my junior high home-ec teacher, if it wasn't done right.

I follow recipes by the book. I give my jars a water bath or put them in the pressure cooker. So far... no deaths.

Whether it is pickling beans, making jam, or trying my own recipe for salsa, it is always rewarding. There is also something about canning jars that make good photos also.

My Mother's Garden

I was able to spend time last week-end working side by side with my mother in her gardens. I love the way we move seamlessly in conversation from names of plants to times of bloom to effective fertilizers.

We were quite a team. I had lower back pain and couldn't bend over. Mom had a sore hip and ankle and couldn't get around as well as usual. We played on our strengths as we planted, deadheaded, watered, weeded, and moved plants.

Every time I drive up to my childhood home I am in awe of the beauty Mom has created in the front of the house. Her plants are lush and healthy. Everything grows twice as tall at her house.

Then when I move to the back it is the same thing. We gave her this rose as a small plant a few years ago. Amazing how much it has grown.

I never get tired of the wide sky, sunlit morning, fresh air, and the scent of flowers.

My Essential Summer Garden Plants

After taking a daily walk through our gardens I reflected on what has worked and not worked as we have planted, unplanted, moved, dug up, and replaces plants through our years of building the landscape. Especially if you are just starting as a gardener or need to do some improvements, let me tell you what works for me. ( We have sandy soil that has been amended and amended and have lots of sunshine and heat in the summer.)
If I was only going to pick a few, here are my essentials:
1. Lilies.
For the time they last, lilies are an inexpensive bulb. They provide that burst of color in July and August. Each year we plant a few more in the fall, but they are a must-have in the summer garden.
2. Sedum.
Sedum comes in all shapes and sizes. It grows just about anywhere and can be a ground cover or a lovely blooming plant by itself. I especially love Autumn Joy sedum.
3. Roses.
I always thought roses were difficult to take care of. Where I live if you water and fertilize them they do just great. My favorite types of roses are "Nearly Wild", " America", "Fourth of July" and " Honey Perfume".
4. Lemon Gem Marigold.
This is an annual you can grow from seed or find in a nursery. This marigold has small yellow flowers and the leaves are lemon scented. Nothing like that smell of lemon when you rub your hands over the leaves. I always keep these close to where we sit in planters to enjoy the fragrance.

5. Lavender.
It is hardy, It doesn't require a lot of water, It looks beautiful when in bloom, It smells good, It fills in as a great landscape plant. What is not to like?

6. Geranium.These traditional favorite garden plants are on my list because they winter over so well. We keep them going all winter in the greenhouse and have them already blooming when they move back outside. I love big containers full of geraniums.
7. Honeysuckle.
We knew we also wanted plants that grew up when we planned our landscape. These plants are hardy, colorful, and fragrant. Three things I like to see in a plant.
8. Begonia.
Another plant I used to be afraid of. Once I learned not to water it too much and keep it in the shade, we have gotten along fine.
9. Coleus.
If you want texture and color to fill in areas of your shady garden, coleus is your plant. It can be found it a large number of varieties that are colorful and full of texture.

10. I am a sucker for dahlias. I used to think it was so much trouble to dig up the bulbs each fall, but now I think the result is worth it.

It was hard to narrow this down and I have many more types of plants, but this is a starting points.

Lily Time

I know it is July when the lilies begin to show their grand colors in my gardens. Love lilies!

Washington Coast Retreat

Retreat:  A place affording peace, quiet, privacy, or security.

I recently completed my thirty-fourth year of teaching.I have taught students from age five to sixty-two during my career. I have had my own elementary classrooms, traveled to rooms as a reading and writing specialist, taught adults in the summer months, and now teach middle school students. I have taught myself much and learned even more from my students.

After this school year I was ready to retreat. I needed time to decompress and rest. My husband,dogs, and myself found the perfect place at The Coastal Nest at  Pacific Beach on the Washington coast. Lisa McElliot designed this cottage with me in mind. Once you walked in the door,  the first thing you noticed was the calming colors throughout the cottage. 

The decor was casual, clean, and inviting. Each room has a unique decor , but the theme was all about the beach. We had big plans to drive up and down the coast and visit the rain forest. With the soft music playing and the  rare June sun shining in the windows of the Coastal Nest, I found myself wanting to stay put. Lisa provides everything you need to be comfortable and taken care of.

Stay put we did. We drove down to the ocean for glorious sunsets and beachcombing adventures. The dogs soon learned that the ocean sand was for them, 

We ate in local restaurants Lisa recommended. We sat on the deck and sipped drinks as the day came to an end. We drove down to the beach and enjoyed the rain. We love the Washington coast because you can drive all the way down to the beach and park.

Yes, the place was the retreat I needed. I rested, read, and began to find myself again. I took pictures to inspire my own decorating back home. I learned that some people thought the cottage should be torn down when Lisa and her husband bought it. 
With much hard work and love... they brought it back to life. They now have another cottage to rent across the street. This cottage has even been featured in a magazine.
If you are interested in a vacation or getaway to the Coastal Cottage here is the information above.

You can read LIsa's blog here or join her on Facebook. Even if you want a place to park your stuff while you explore the coast, this is your place. Let me warn you though.... you do want to just  get comfortable and stay. We plan to return and maybe we will see some sights on our next trip. Lisa has a library of books to help us with that.

Thanks Lisa. The Coastal Nest Cottage was just what I needed.

A Poem for Today

When I discover a poem I haven't read and enjoyed, it is always worth sharing. If you haven't enjoyed the work of Martha Collins, check out her poetry. 

by Martha Collins

black keys from trees white keys locked

on black shoulders locked together above

skeleton ribs keys to 45 keyboards from one

tusk the word ivory rang through the air

one tusk + one slave to carry it bought

together if slave survived the long march

sold for spice or sugar plantations if not

replaced by other slaves five Africans died

for each tusk 2 million for 400,000 American

pianos including the one my grandmother

played not to mention grieving villages

burned women children left to die the dead

elephants whose tusks went to Connecticut

where they were cut bleached and polished

while my grandmother played in Illinois

my mother played and I— there were many old

pianos and slaves were used till the 20th century:

an African slave could have carried a tusk

that was cut into white keys I played, starting

with middle C and going up and down

Building a Garden

When I planted my first roses in the spring of 1996 with my mom by my side I remember looking around the space I had in front of my house thinking I could never create the gardens I wish and hope for.  The clematis above wouldn't have even had a place to climb back then.

Fast forward to 2012.... the gardens have flourished. Looking around tonight I was filled with a sense of awe as I looked at trees that were saplings back then. The roses I planted then are gone, but others have replaced them.  The one above is Berries and Cream.

We are a bit more established around our gardens now. Gardening is all about patience.... and watering says my wise husband. He is the king of the watering! Here is the healthy vegetable garden that he is watering when Mother Nature isn't