Thursday, May 31, 2012

A walk on the wild side

Our side yard is in a state of great neglect, and since this is the view from my library desk, I constantly feel guilty that we haven't started to regain control of this area.  I think I'm still in mourning because the view from this window, until last year's drought, was a huge beautiful sasanqua, full of blooms in November, green leaves in the summer and interesting, flowing branches.  Well, it up and died one day. and Ricky cut it down.  Now instead of a shade garden, we have a dried patch of hard dirt.

The male holly next to the sasanqua location is sick--our neighbor's holly died a couple years ago.  Nothing they did could save it.  There's a female holly, plus a camellia, in our narrow side yard, and I worry about them, too.

The female holly appears healthy so far, and the red berries from this tree fill the view from an upstairs window as we walk down the steps at Christmas time.  The creatures like the berries, too, and I've been known to plop down on the steps and just sit, watching squirrels and birds enjoy the holly berries.  If there are still any left, once the Cedar Waxwings descent on our street, the tree is soon bare--and that's okay.

I've been sick this week and home from work several days, not feeling well enough to tackle the yard chores, but well enough to look and fret.  I ventured outside today to take some pictures of the neglect.  I'm going to post these for our "before" shots.  Maybe this will be motivating. 

The cats like the area now.

Rusty rabbit hangs on Ricky's horseshoe gate.

Found stuff display, including Katrina, the cat

 A boy (cat) named Daisy--neutered and sweet--sits on garden bench because
no one else would want to.
Daisy and friend, Stubby with congenital tail deformity (Stubby is spayed and feisty.)

The jungle--Turk's Cap--needs attention and irrigation
Every action has a reaction.  We took down the gutters on the house, because they stayed full of pine needles and were rotting the wood on the house.  We put a French drain on this side because the water was flowing under our house, undermining our beams and foundation.  The water no longer flows under our house, but it also doesn't flow over to the plants on the far side of drain, so now we have arid beds instead of the shade garden..  The shade is gone because of trees dying. 

We need to devote some serious time and attention to this area;  in the meantime, I'll just keep the shades down and read instead.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Squash and tomatoes

I have been blessed with an abundance of yellow and zucchini squash, tomatoes  and cucumbers.  It is a wonderful problem because I love garden vegetables.  However, I do need some new ideas about squash recipes.  If anyone has great squash recipes that use a lot of squash, let me know. 

Tomatoes have taste, something I tend to forget throughout the winter.  We had BLT's yesterday, caprese salad Saturday, and I tried a wonderful Greek Pasta Salad recipe from Pinterest that calls for tomatoes and cucumbers.  I have included this recipe below and I highly recommend it.

Greek pasta salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette

Greek Pasta Salad

For the dressing:
1 garlic clove
7 sun-dried or slow-roasted tomato halves, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp plain nonfat yogurt
1 tsp Greek seasoning
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 tsp honey (or sugar substitute)

5-6 tsp water

For the salad:
8 oz rotini or other twisty pasta
1-1/2 cup diced fresh tomatoes, any type
1 cup diced cucumber
1/2 medium green bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup pitted large black olives, sliced in half
3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, or more to taste

In a blender, combine all dressing ingredients, and blend on high speed until smooth. If you'd like the dressing thinner, add a bit more water. Set aside.
Bring 4 quarts of water to the boil in a large pot. Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and add to a large mixing bowl.

Combine all remaining ingredients in the mixing bowl along with as much of the dressing as you like. Garnish with some extra dill fronds, and serve at room temperature.
(from recipes)
Another recipe from Pinterest I prepared and loved is included below--just be aware that you need to parboil, steam or otherwise precook potatoes before adding this to this dish if you use Idaho potato.  New potatoes may cook faster.

Stacked Squash Casserole


1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 medium potato
1 medium tomato
1 tsp dried thyme
to taste salt and pepper
1 cup grated cheese (I used Italian blend and Gouda)

I added other spices that I like (e.g. oregano, basil) and also probably doubled the recipe as I have no medium size squash!

 STEP 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Finely dice the onion and mince the garlic. Saute both in a skillet with olive oil until softened (about five minutes).

STEP 2: While the onion and garlic are sauteing, thinly slice the rest of the vegetables.

STEP 3: Spray the inside of an 8x8 square or round baking dish with non-stick spray. Spread the softened onion and garlic in the bottom of the dish. Place the thinly sliced vegetables in the baking dish vertically, in an alternating pattern. Sprinkle generously with salt, pepper, and thyme.

STEP 4: Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, top with cheese and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.

Stacked Squash Casserole
( from

So, I'm going to turn my old Chambers oven on as I wait for folks to share their delicious squash recipes.  In the meantime, I think I'll stir up some zucchini bread!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Cold Dish: A Walt Longmire Mystery, by Craig Johnson

Sheriff Walter Longmire is tired, he has been on the job for over 20 years and isn't sure he wants to be in law enforcement anymore.  He's also depressed, perhaps it's the death of his wife, but that was four years ago, perhaps he's just seen too much over the years.  However, when a young man, involved several years before in the gang rape of a Cheyenne high school girl, ends up dead, he doggedly seeks the reason for his death.

I first read about Craig Johnson's Walter Longmire mysteries last Thursday on my friend Jenny 's A Garden in the Pocket book blog and immediately decided it was a series I would like.  So, it's Monday and I've read the first book of the series on my Kindle.
This mystery features Longmire as sheriff of Absoroka County, Wyoming, which is located at the base of the Big Horn Mountains next to the Northern Cheyenne Reservation.  His best friend, Henry Standing Bear, deputy Vic (short for Victoria) Morretti, former sheriff Lucien Connally, along with a cast of likable characters, inhabit this series.  I grew to really like the characters, and Johnson's description of a rescue during a blizzard is first-rate, stark reality coupled with Indian spirituality. 

On the other hand, I didn't find the killer's motive totally satisfying, and the beginning of the book annoyed me.  To me the author's scene changes lack continuity, and I kept thinking I had accidentally hit the page turn on my Kindle multiple times.  I've noticed this "jerkiness" in other first novels so I hope Johnson has smoother transitions in future mysteries--he got better as this book continued or perhaps I just got more accustomed to his writing technique.

I lived for two years on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in the early eighties.  In my limited experience (and alluded to in this book), Indians do not call themselves "Native Americans."  The people I knew and worked with referred themselves as Indians--they weren't worried about politically correct titles.  However, they preferred to be called by their trial affiliation--about that, they were deadly serious.  Thus, on the Rosebud Reservation live the Lakota Sioux.  On the adjacent Sioux reservation, the Pine Ridge Reservation, the inhabitants are primarily Oglala Sioux.  In Johnson's mysteries, the tribe is Northern Cheyenne. 

Jenny also mentioned, in her review of Longmire's latest mystery, that she enjoyed the Cheyenne names--e.g., Standing Bear, Real Bird, Many Camps.  Surnames of people from the Rosebud Reservation that I recall with affection include Black Lance, Gunpowder, Whirlwind Soldier, White Hat and Leader Charge.  Any lover of words has got to be captivated by evocative Indian names, just another reason to be drawn into Craig Johnson's mysteries.

Coincidentally, yesterday when I went to the movies, the promotion for the upcoming A & E show, Longmire, was shown.  Not only does Johnson have a successful book series, but a TV series will premier June 3, featuring Longmire and his friends.  I don't watch much television, but I plan to tune in for this show, just to see how successfully Longshire transfers to the screen.  In the meantime, I plan to read more of these mysteries. 

(To read subsequent posts of other Longmire mysteries, click here for Death Without Company or here for Another Man's Moccasins.  For a brief review of  Kindness Goes Unpunished , click here.)

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Highland BLOOMS in an old fire hall

We now come to the end of the neighborhood garden tour with the home we started with in March when I gave you a peek inside the home that was once a neighborhood fire station.  This house sits right on the street and would not appear to have any outdoor living space, but a surprise awaits visitors as they venture down the narrow drive next to the tall brick building. The outdoor living area features an inviting pool, lovely hot tub, grill area--all accented with lovely flowers and plenty of seating for a pool-side party.  The homeowner even served roast beef sandwiches to hungry tour goers and offered home tours of the former fire hall.  You can't beat the hospitality of Highland folks!

A narrow drive leads to the pool area, hidden away behind the home.

Hot tub with floating accents

Hot Louisiana summers make this a favorite spot for the homeowners and their lucky guests.

Next we will move inside the home to see how the homeowners turned an abandoned fire station into a home.  Those of you who read the earlier blog post in March, The Perks of Being President, have seen some of these views when I captured them with my IPhone then, but my husband is a better photographer so I thought I would show you his photos here.
Large open floor plan downstairs
(Click on above photos to see more detail and to brighten image.)

Old piano serves as display for family photos.

Upstairs den

Lovely exposed brick with clock

Fire District map on upstairs wall

Upstairs bedroom

Up the stairs into the guest area where a small kitchen features a glass table top
mounted on top of an old fire ladder for a unique dining surface

The Highland Restoration Association is already considering having another garden tour next year to showcase our delightful outdoor living spaces and invite people into our historic neighborhood.  What do you think?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Highland BLOOMS with lush profusion

Another gorgeously lush small garden on our neighborhood association's garden tour was right across the street from where I was stationed, so I actually got to visit it.  This garden was packed with people throughout the day. 

I'll share a few photos that Ricky took, but there are more pictures of this site on Facebook's Highland Experience community page, plus the The Shreveport Times had a great photo gallery from this garden as well. 

Tour goers arriving at this garden

Hydrangea blossom

Volunteer assisting tour goer with the map of gardens

Every space was utilized and enhanced with flowers

It wouldn't be a Highland garden without the unexpected--thus, a blue sink
hides in the corner of this homeowner's garden!

Backyard red chairs for resting and admiring the vegetable patch and other flower beds
in the back corner of the yard.

There were other areas of this garden that Ricky didn't photograph, e.g. a corner vegetable garden, close-ups of the lush beds in the backyard area, the front porch and fountain in front of the home on the walkway.  Add in tea from a new shop in the neighborhood, TWINE--Tea and Wine on Line (Avenue), and this garden was a delight to the senses.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Highland BLOOMS: A Slice of Paradise

The large garden depicted below used to be part of a Bed and Breakfast in our neighborhood, and a new owner recently purchased this garden and the home connected to the garden, but not the old B and B house.  (For more photos,  check out the photo gallery on Facebook at the Highland Experience community. 

Peeking into the garden from the alley

Setting up the band and food table in The Gazebo in this large garden area tucked away
 on an alley.

So many lovely spots to retreat from the world

A curving ramp connects the kitchen of the old home to the lovely garden space.

Who wouldn't want to step into this slice of paradise each day after work....

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Highland BLOOMS: Fun, Funky and Artistic

Since Ricky had other assigned duties Saturday at Highland BLOOMS event, he couldn't linger at some of the garden sites and visited some before they actually opened for tour goers, which is why these photos look devoid of people.  His photographs show a little of this artistic garden space, so I'm going to share a few pictures with you.  There is also an excellent photo gallery of each garden on Facebook, The Highland Experience community!/HighlandExperience

The first large garden's primary themes were art and container gardening.  Arts and crafts vendors and artists set up here to display and sell their works.  Scattered throughout the grounds were raised beds and containers, displaying a variety of plant life.  A band entertained tour goers who chose to linger at this location to do a little shopping.

Peeking at the garden shed from outside the fence surrounding the property

Art vendors setting up in the large yard in the shadow of I-49
found that the shadows couldn't cover the area quickly enough--the interstate provides
greatly appreciated shade in the afternoon for this homeowner.
An art canvas on display at this garden
Container gardening

This stylish garden shed should grace the cover of a magazine!

One of the homeowner's creations on display in the garden shed

My, what big wings you have!

The homeowner's sculptures were for sale at Highland BLOOMS
This fun and funky yard represents Highland's sensibilities well.