Memorial Day Musing

The entire weekend we’ve all been inundated with advertisements for the barbecues people host and for sales that are going on today. We’ve been told that we shouldn’t run out of beer and that this or that sale will never be repeated. The day has been touted as a celebration of food, booze, and savings. And many of us have been hurt by this happy-go-lucky attitude about the day.

Memorial Day is a day set aside to remember those who gave their lives in service to America. It was intended as a day when the memories of the fallen would be honored. Not just by their families and friends but by the nation. It was meant to be a day of contemplation of the ultimate sacrifice of these brave young people.



My oldest brother joined the Marines and died serving this country. He was 19 years old. The brother closest to him in age was in the Navy at the same time, aboard an ammunition ship. I thank God that he was spared, both for my sake and, especially for my parents’ sake. You see, after my oldest brother died my mother was never quite the same.

She had a nine year old to care for so she didn’t fall apart, at least not completely. Yet, even decades after my brother’s death there were things that cut her deeply. When I was a little girl I had very long hair. One summer my mother took me for a haircut. The style was called a “Pixie cut” and it was quite short. When my mother saw me, shorn of my waist-length hair, she started to cry. It wasn’t the loss of the hair that did it. She told me I looked exactly like my brother. We made a trip to California in the 1980’s and the sight of the Pacific Ocean only reminded her that she last saw her oldest child alive at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. Mama was a very intelligent and extremely funny lady. She was a great mother and a very strong woman. Yet there were things that reminded her of my brother and could stop her in her tracks.

And, although he rarely showed it, my daddy also keenly felt the loss of his firstborn child. I remember one morning he and I were sitting on our porch as the sun was just rising. It was so quiet and Daddy seemed unusually solemn. Then he began talking to me about my brother. He told me stories about his child that he’d never shared before. Some I’d heard from Mama but some were anecdotes about incidents that were just between my brother and my father. I recall staring straight ahead, not wanting him to stop talking. It was almost as though he were speaking to himself. I was afraid that any comment I made would interrupt his reverie. It was one of the most intimate moments we shared and yet it was almost as if I weren’t there. The depth of my father’s grief was finally laid bare.

My surviving brothers often told tales of the wild teenage exploits of their big brother. They were amusing and sometimes shocking. After all, my oldest brother had been the epitome of the good son to my parents. The idea that he was also a wildly adventurous boy almost felt at odds with the boy whom my mother described. She’d told me how he went to a local fair with a friend and they met a couple of girls yet, when he won a box of chocolates, he didn’t give them to his accidental date but, instead, brought them home to her. And my brothers told me how he’d sat on the hood of a car speeding down the middle of a freeway that was not yet open. I heard how he would do chores perfectly with a smile and also how he and his friends did things that would have made Mama’s hair stand on end. Between Mama, Daddy, and my brothers I had a complete picture of the young man my brother was and the man he would have become

And so, on this day that people will spend going on picnics and spending at the beach I can only think of all the young people who are no longer with us. Those who never got a chance to grow up, get married and have children of their own, and grow old. I think of the grandchildren that parents all over the country never got to have and the holidays that felt just a little empty. I think of sweethearts that never met. And I think of how so many families will go through the rest of their lives with a hole in the shape of a brave youngster.

And I ask this of all of you; as you enjoy your day, however you may be spending it, to remember the fallen. Remember the sacrifice they made. Remember that you’re enjoying your day because of them.

Thank you.


Bring on the Night – Flowers You Need to View After Dark

Flowers bring such beauty to our gardens. Sometimes just looking at flowers can make the cares of life disappear. But did you know that some flowers are even more beautiful in the soft light of night? So, bring on the night! Here are flowers you need to view after dark.

moonflower2-01Plants with reflective foliage: Lamb’s ear, agaves, and Russian sage with their silver and grey leaves lend an ethereal light to your garden. Jack Frost brunnera and others with a metallic sheen to their leaves absolutely glimmer at dusk. And white variegated hostas, caladiums, and dogwoods reflect the faint light of evening after their green leaves are invisible.

Flowers full of fragrance: The scents of many flowers grow more intense after dark when breezes aren’t as strong. Roses, lilies, honeysuckle, and old-fashioned petunias release their fragrances perfuming the air after dark more strongly than in daylight hours.

Night blooming flowers: Evening primroses, four o’clocks, and moonflowers (a.k.a. tropical white morning glory) save their exquisiteness for after sunset. They unfurl their blossoms to greet the night and it’s a sight you shouldn’t miss. Some cactuses and tropical water lilies do the same.

Pastel flowers:  After dark the red, purple, blue, and orange blossoms disappear and pastel blossoms begin to illuminate the garden. White flowers stand out in the garden like little moons. Tiny flowers like those of asters and guara become their own little Milky Way.

UPDATE – Potatoes & Carrots in Pots

I promised an update on the potatoes and carrots I planted in pots and I’m delighted to say that the red potatoes and both kinds of carrots are coming up. The Yukon Gold potatoes haven’t shown any green yet but I’m still hopeful.

These are the red potatoes. I did plant quite a few for the size of the pot but, with luck, they’ll produce the way I want. If things get too crowded I’ll just thin them a bit.



Here are the carrots. I made a rookie mistake in that I didn’t note which pot is the baby carrots and which I planted the full size variety. This may mean I’m going to be pulling a lot of carrots when they’re still small. Lesson learned for next year!

 carrot-close-upA close up of one of the carrots just starting to grow. I’m delighted!


 There are several carrots here and many more in the pot. I’m going to have to thin them a bit. I can live with having more than I expected!

Mulberry Cheesecake Bars

I’m wild about Mulberry Trees. The leaves make a very healthy green tea and the berries are delicious! I use mulberries to make a lot of different sauces and desserts. But my Mulberry Cheesecake Bars are a definite favorite. C’mon! What could be better than mulberries and cheesecake? Of course if you don’t have mulberries you can substitute other berries but, if you can find mulberries, I urge you to give them a try!


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Uses for Pepper You Probably Don't Know

You know that pepper is an essential seasoning when you cook. I love the heat that pepper brings to my recipes. But pepper can do more than add a little spice to your cooking! Here are some uses for pepper you probably don’t know!



  • Cure Impotence – I knew that would get your attention. Some research has purported that pepper can increase sex drive. It even suggests that it may help with erectile dysfunction. It’s been hypothesized that the high concentration of zinc, which is linked to testosterone, may be the reason pepper can be effective. So add a little extra pepper in the kitchen to spice things up in the bedroom.
  • Pepper brightens laundry – It’s believed that pepper helps remove soap buildup on fabric making colors look less dull. It’s likely the mildly abrasive quality of pepper does the trick. All the way back in 1892 a Good Housekeeping issue advised adding it to wash water to keep black stockings looking vibrant. Add a teaspoon of black pepper to your wash and your laundry will thank you.
  • Quit smoking with pepper – Inhaling black pepper essential oil helps reduce cravings for nicotine and withdrawal symptoms. It’s believed the sensation of inhaling the oil mimics the feeling of smoking in the chest. This makes it a very effective replacement for cigarettes.
  • Use pepper to boost memory and metabolism – The antioxidants in pepper fight damage caused by aging and protect the brain. Piperine, which is the alkaloid responsible for the pungency of black pepper along with its isomer chavicine, improves cognitive function and can reduce the impact of Alzheimer’s disease. Adding black pepper to your detox juice stimulates digestion and increases circulation. It also helps balance glucose levels, reduces inflammation. By lowering oxidative stress the risk for diabetes and heart disease. The piperine increases energy.
  • Sooth arthritis pain – Decrease the pain, stiffness, and swelling of arthritis with black pepper. Piperine has anti-inflammatory and pain-reducing properties. It’s very potent on inflammatory arthritis. Apply it topically in oil or balm form. In this application it also produces a soothing, warming sensation that helps reduce irritation.
  • Send critters packing – Sprinkling pepper around your plants will keep deer and many other animals from nibbling on the plants. The smell and taste are unpleasant to many foliage eating critters. Sprinkle some black pepper into standing water to kill mosquito larvae.


Let me know if you try any of these uses for black pepper. I’d love to know how they worked for you!

Alternative Ways to Stay Cool

Being fat has taught me two things; I can’t sink, which I learned in Virginia Beach and I cannot tolerate heat. Of course hot flashes don’t help matters but just the regular summer heat is overwhelming for me. Until this year I’d work in my garden and play with the dogs for an hour or so then retreat to the comfort of my 70° home. But this year our central air isn’t working. Neither is the furnace but, frankly, that doesn’t concern me. It’s spring and the forecast for the rest of the week is temperatures in the mid-80’s. I will not fare well in this.

Summer frequently brings power outages as people run air conditioners and fans trying to alleviate the heat. It’s logical. Heat can be deadly. In 1995 over 700 deaths in Chicago were directly attributed to a severe heatwave that hit the city. In California in 2006 655 people lost their lives during a two-week heat wave. The CDC states an average of 675 people die from heat-related illnesses each year in the United States. This makes heat one of the leading causes of weather-related deaths in America.


Hyperthermia and heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke and death. I once experienced heatstroke requiring an ambulance to be called and EMT’s to treat the condition. It was not an event I’d like to replicate.


If your power goes out or you have no air conditioning and the heat becomes too much to handle, here are some alternative ways to stay cool.

For millennia people have lived in nice, cool caves. Since I don’t live in an area where there are any caves I’m going to go back to the things my mama and Nana used. If the heat became too oppressive they’d retreat to the basement. The temperature in basements is usually significantly lower than the first floor.

If your basement isn’t furnished just take a chair and a book and hang out until you feel cooler and ready to face the world above again.

Mama would hang wet sheets at the doors and windows when it got oppressively hot. They breezes would evaporate the water and cool the house. Some folks even sleep with wet sheets. They dip the sheets in cold water and wring them out so they’re just damp. As the air evaporates all night the people stay cool.

When I was growing up and the summer days got too hot to handle all the ladies would draw the curtains. Keeping the sun out helped keep some of the heat out of the houses. They’d do this early in the morning while the houses were still relatively cool. As soon as it began to cool down in the evening, they’d throw open windows and doors to let in the cool evening air.

Another thing Mama always said to do when it got too hot was to head to the swimming hole. She meant get in the pool and it was wise advice. Swimming is a great way to cool off. And don’t dry yourself when you get out of the water. Let it evaporate on your skin, helping to keep you cool longer. Stretching out in the shade after swimming will let the water evaporate even more slowly. If you don’t have a swimming hole or pool try a kiddie pool. The plastic pools for toddlers can be very refreshing if you sit in one in the shade. Or try a cool shower.

I’ve been hosing off the dogs in the yard and letting them drip dry. For myself and my husband I’ve got misting bottles to help keep cool. While hosing off the dogs takes a bit of effort it’s no trouble at all to spray our face and arms with a cool mist from the bottles.

During the summer most of the moms would either serve some kind of cold dish or barbecue on hot days. Both cooking and eating hot foods can make you feel even hotter.

They’d also put off dinner until it had begun to cool off a bit. No one really feels much like eating when it’s hot.

I remember sleeping on sheets in the living room with the windows and door open in summer. The number of windows and the front door allowed a lot more cool night air to reach us. If at all possible, don’t sleep on a second floor or in a room with only one window.

Even better were the nights we slept outside! Sleeping outdoors gives you the maximum exposure to the cool night air. Try camping out in a tent. You’ll stay cooler and your kids will love it.

Our neighbor, Mrs. Hooks, used to wet a bandanna and wear it on her head as she took care of her flowers. Keeping your head cool will help you feel cool all over.

Although Mrs. Hooks used to garden even during the hottest part of the day most of the ladies kept to the old saying, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” They’d do outdoor work early in the morning or in the evening.

In the movie “Steel Magnolias” Shirley McClaine’s character Ouiser says, “Because I’m an old Southern woman and we’re supposed to wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. Don’t ask me those questions. I don’t know why, I don’t make the rules!” I agree with her in that I believe all old women should wear funny looking hats and ugly clothes and grow vegetables in the dirt. You don’t have to wear a funny looking one but wearing a hat will help keep you cool.

And the clothes don’t have to be ugly but clothing in the heat should be thin and loose-fitting. The dog days are not the time to wear clothing that doesn’t breathe or is tight. You want air to circulate through it.

If you try or have used any of these or if you have additional ideas on staying cool I’d love to hear from you!



Growing Potatoes in Pots

My garden soil has blight so I can’t plant potatoes in it. I can protect my tomatoes and peppers from this fungal disease but not my potatoes. So I’m growing potatoes in pots. Even if your garden soil is perfect you may choose to grow potatoes in pots to save space. You may be surprised how many pounds of potatoes you can get from each pot.

Here’s how I planted mine:

  1. We waited until there was no danger of frost.
  1. While we could have used grocery store potatoes we wouldn’t have had as high a yield so we got seed potatoes from a local greenhouse.
  1. The seed potatoes we bought already had eyes but if yours don’t you need to “chit” your seed potatoes. This simply means to get them to sprout eyes. This is done by putting the seed potatoes in a cool, dark place (I use my basement). Each potato should have no more than three eyes because any more weakens the potato and you’ll get small potatoes. Most seed potatoes already have eyes.
  1. We used a couple of very large pots; one for my Yukon Gold potatoes and one for my red potatoes. Potatoes can be grown in darned near anything, including garbage cans. Just be sure you have enough room to build up the soil as the potatoes grow. This encourages the growth of even more tubers.
  1. If using a plastic or rubber pot be sure there are plenty of drain holes in the bottom. One of my pots already had drain holes so my son just drilled 6 holes using a 1/4” drill bit in the bottom of the other.
  1. We used a mix of high quality potting soil and perlite. You can grow your potatoes in almost any drained medium, including perlite. Just be sure it’s a free draining mixture. But before you fill a large pot, make sure you have it positioned where it will get six to eight hours of sunlight and temperatures of about 60° You don’t want to have to move it once it’s filled and heavy. I’m going to have to shade my potatoes part of the day as I didn’t have a spot where I could keep them cool enough.



  1. We filled the container with about 4 inches of previously moistened soil. Cut large seed potatoes into about 2 inch pieces, each with a couple of eyes. If you’re using small potatoes they can be planted just as they are. If you cut the potatoes let them callus over for a couple of days before planting.
  1. We planted the potatoes fairly closely. We’re going to see if they thrive being close together and, if they do, we should get enough potatoes for both our households to last well into winter. It’s recommended to plant about 4 tubers for a fourteen inch pot. Be sure to plant them with the eyes facing up.


  1. After placing the potatoes we covered them with a couple of inches of soil.


  1. We then watered the potatoes lightly. Soil should be kept continuously moist but not wet. They must never be allowed to dry out! Watering twice a week during summer should do it but keep an eye on the moisture levels.


  1. I’ll use a good organic fertilizer about every two weeks
  1. When the plants have reached about 7 inches tall, we’ll cover them with more soil, leaving about an inch or so of the plant showing. We’ll continue covering all but the tops of the small plants with soil until we’ve reached a depth of about 1.5 – 2 feet of soil.
  1. Potatoes can be harvested once they’ve reached a size you like (just stick your hands in and feel them) or when the plants begin to turn yellow. But please remember that potatoes are a member of the nightshade family and green potatoes are very poisonous!

As my potato plants grow I’ll keep you updated on how they’re doing.

If you live in an area without freezing winters you can grow several potato crops a year, starting with a January planting. I can’t imagine anything better than having newly grown potatoes every day!

We also tried a couple of experimental pots of Baby Finger Carrots.

experimental-baby-carrotsWe planted these in a perlite, coconut fiber mixture. The fiber will dry out fairly quickly so I have to be sure to keep the pots watered consistently.

If you try growing potatoes in pots please tell me about it. I’d love to hear how you did it!



Growing lemons from seeds

Since I love lemons and use them so much when cooking and baking I’ve decided I need a lemon tree. I can buy a dwarf tree at a greenhouse not far from town but that’s too easy. So I’m going to try growing lemons from seeds.

Because of our harsh winters I’ll have to grow my lemon tree inside during the winter but I should still get a healthy crop of lemons and seeds for additional trees.


I need to have:

  • A couple of organic lemons. Non-organic lemons usually have non-germinating seeds. I’m going to buy more than one lemon to ensure a higher likelihood of seeds germinating.
  • Potting soil with organic fertilizer, peat, perlite, and vermiculite.
  • A sprouting pot about 6 inches deep and 6 inches around.
  • A seedling pot with 12 inches of depth and 24 inches circumference.
  • A very sunny spot in my house and a grow light for winter months.

How I’ll grow my lemons:

  • I’ll moisten the potting soil so it’s damp but not soaking wet.
  • I’ll fill the sprouting pot with the soil until it’s about an inch below the top of the pot.
  • I’ll remove a seed from one of my lemons and get all the pulp off. I can easily suck any pulp off the seed.
  • Since the seed must be moist when it’s planted I’ll get it into the soil immediately, planting it about 1//2 inch deep. I’ll put it right in the center of the pot.
  • I’ll use a spray bottle to gently water the soil directly above my seed.
  • Then I’ll cover the pot with clear plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band.
  • Next I’ll poke a few holes in the plastic wrap with a pencil.
  • Once the holes are poked through the pot will go in the sunny spot I’ve chosen.


  • In order to ensure the soil doesn’t dry out I’ll spray it from time to time. I want to be sure not to add so much water it goes all the way through and leaks out the bottom of the pot. The soil should just be moist, not soaking.
  • The seedling should appear about two weeks after planting and it’s then I’ll remove the plastic wrap.
  • During the summer I shouldn’t need the grow light but I’ll keep an eye on the plant just in case. The young plant will need about 8 hours of full sunlight every day.
  • I’ll keep the soil moist and feed the plant a few moderate doses of the organic fertilizer.
  • If any leaves turn brown or die I’ll remove them and I’ll watch that my young plant isn’t attacked by bugs! If I see any I’ll use an all-natural pesticide.
  • As my plant grows I’ll move it to the next larger pot and follow the watering instructions as I did when I planted it. Although older plants don’t require as much water as the young ones I’ll ensure it has adequate water.

In time I expect to have a lemon tree that produces enough to fill all my lemon needs.

Are you going to try to grow your own lemon tree? Let me know how it goes!

Respect Yourself as a Homemaker

If you are a stay-at-home mom and homemaker you’ve no doubt heard, too many times, the question, “Do you work or just stay home?” People seem to think that, unless you get a paycheck, you don’t work. There’s no job that takes more time with fewer material rewards and no other job that can be as rewarding emotionally and spiritually than being a homemaker. So while others may not, it’s important that you respect yourself as a homemaker.

As a full-time homemaker you have qualities you may not realize. Let me help you recognize some of your strengths.


You are intelligent. You’re probably managing the finances or at least making the decisions about purchasing cleaning materials, cooking supplies, food, and health and hygiene items. You are primarily responsible for raising the children. It’s your observation, creativity, and problem-solving that keeps your home running smoothly. You are the systems manager, facilities manager, financial manager, and scheduling manager. I could go on but you get the idea.

You are resourceful and imaginative. You are the one who provides, even if not monetarily, the basic needs of your family. You ensure the nutrition of your family, keep them and their clothing clean, and provide comfort. You even manage most of the leisure time activities. You plan vacations from destination to what each person must pack. And you do all this while keeping an eye on the finances.

You self-manage. Not only do you manage the family’s life but you manage yourself. It’s your ability to control your own feelings, physical and mental health, and emotions that allow your family and home to function smoothly.

You are determined. No matter what the issue, you will find a way. You don’t give up because things are rough or you’re tired. Most homemakers don’t stop even when they’re sick. You decide the goals for your family life and you tirelessly pursue them.

You are enthusiastic. You are interested in the activities of being a good homemaker and work with enthusiasm to become more skillful. This doesn’t mean you love scrubbing toilets but you do everything for your family and home with gusto and pride. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Family members become fired up about the things that you are enthusiastic about.

You are adaptable. The life of a homemaker means you are able to adjust to ever-changing situations. It may be as small as a change of schedules during the week or as major as adapting to a completely new lifestyle but you are able to acclimate. You deal with altered financial situations, medical emergencies, and even deaths and keep your family moving forward.

You are understanding and empathetic. You recognize the individual needs of your family and those around you. You can relate to people in a crisis. Because of your empathy and understanding you can solve problems efficiently and maintain healthy relationships.

You have good judgement skills. Being a homemaker means you have to solve problems, be fair to each member of your family, and make sound decisions for everything relating to the running of your home. You analyze problems, and use imagination and common sense to run your home from children’s issues to dealing with repairmen.

You are imaginative. You can anticipate problems and solve them before they occur. You create action plans and come up with ideas to keep things on track. You use your imagination for everything from choosing paint color to creating delicious, inexpensive meals.

You have the ability to communicate. You can explain your ideas, reasoning, and solutions to problems clearly and effectively. Your communication skills help build strong bonds between family members. Through your aptitude for communication you provide guidance and encouragement.

You exercise self-control. In times of great stress you are the one who is calm. In an emergency or a death you are the one who can handle the necessary details. Your self-control is an example to your family. You don’t allow your temper to get the best of you. You show self-control when you go to bed early because of a busy day ahead or when you take time to exercise to maintain your physical health.

Even if some people don’t realize your value to your family, friends, and society, remember you are a remarkable woman. Never forget to respect yourself as a homemaker!

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