Archive for February, 2010


Grooming, Bows, and Dirt

February 24, 2010

Doggie Thoughts by Ralphie Andre


Didn’t anyone tell the doggie barber that I’m a male? For cat’s sakes, what was the doggie barber thinking putting a bow on the center of my head? And why cut off my fur when it’s soooo cold and wet outside? My owner was sure pleased, though, when she finally returned after leaving me for threeeee long hours at Beauty of the Beast ( My owner squealed something about me being a “sure winner” if I entered a dog show. Just what is a dog show? Who cares? I’m home now where I can dig in the garden once again . . . if my owner ever lets me outside.


Who wouldn’t want to look and smell like fresh garden soil? 



A Love-Hate Relationship

February 21, 2010

Text and Photograph by Judy Crosby

I am sure that everyone at sometime in their lives has had a love – hate relationship with something or someone. My love – hate relationship is with cooking. The love part comes in because I enjoy food and still like to eat a few times a day. The hate part comes, because I don’t want to be the person that has to fix that food.

 When these feelings started, I am not exactly sure. It happened over a period of years, gradually, coming in small stages, catching me quite unaware.  I just know that one day I woke up and could not think of anything to fix for dinner and decided I hated cooking and everything that went with it, the planning of dinners, shopping for groceries, preparing the food and then the cleanup. In the past 20 years, I have developed numerous hobbies and interests; and to stop anyone of these on a given day and have to cook has become burdensome for me.

My feelings towards cooking weren’t always ones of hate, when I was first married it was fun to look in my cookbook and pick out recipes I had never tried before, which wasn’t hard to do, since I cooked very little before getting married. Every evening I was excited to see the response of my husband Ron, as I served him my newest endeavor. In all honesty, these recipes didn’t always turn out as I hoped they would.

One evening as Ron was eating dinner, he said quite innocently, “This is pretty good, one of these days you will cook as good as my Mom.”  With these words ringing in my ears, I burst into tears and ran into our bedroom. Ron, not sure what he had done wrong, did try to console me that night.

One husband, four children, and 54 years later I did become a better cook. The irony of this was now that my cooking was as good as Ron’s Mothers’ I realized I hated to cook. One night I was complaining to Ron about not having any ideas for dinner. Always the practical one in our relationship, he suggested, “Why don’t you keep a list of our dinners for a month, and then at the beginning of the new month just start over again, by that time we will both have forgotten what we had the month before.”

At first, Ron’s idea did not appeal to me, but then I decided to try it. An interesting scenario came from this, I started writing down our dinners, and I found myself wanting to try new dishes and my interest in cooking returned to a small degree.

 I still like fast, simple recipes. Here is one my granddaughter gave me. Copyright © 2010 Judy Crosby


 Maple Roasted Chicken 

Serves 4

  1. Peel 2-3 small sweet potatoes and cut into 1 in. pieces
  2. Cut 2 lbs. of chicken (I use breasts) into 1 in. pieces.
  3. Cut up 1 small onion

 Place chicken and vegetables in casserole dish.

Drizzle 2 Tbsp. of olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper over ingredients and toss to coat.

Drizzle 3 Tbsp of maple syrup over all. Top with 6 sprigs of thyme.

Bake at 400° for 1 hour 




February Garden Tasks

February 10, 2010 Registered & Protected

Please note:  What I write in this space are lessons learned through trial and error, research, and from other gardeners and professionals. I garden in zone 9, but share garden experiences that I believe are relevant to most zones within a reasonable time frame and planting conditions.

February is a month of rhythmic movements. Fragrant roses and Saint Valentine’s Day cards stir the hearts of new and established relationships. Winter is fading and the earth itself senses change and celebration. Anticipated possibilities are just around the corner. To help you love your way back into the garden, below are a few tasks.

 In the vegetable garden:  plant artichokes, onion sets and green onions, peas, spinach, Swiss chard. Indoors, sow beets, broccoli, blueberries, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, cucumber, eggplant, grapes, green onions, peppers, parsley, lettuce, spinach, strawberries, Swiss chard, tomatoes.

 Sow lettuce every two weeks for a continuous crop. Once transplanted and the weather heats up, protect lettuce from the sun and you should have salad greens throughout the season. Use scrap wood to build a frame consisting of two sides and a top, large enough to sit over lettuce crop. Attach sunscreen fabric (available at local nurseries) to the frame’s top and sides. Leave the ends open for air. (I’ve seen this done with satisfying results . . . fresh lettuce all summer!)

 In the landscape:  plant bare root roses and fruit trees, deciduous shrubs, and vines.

For spring annuals, add dianthus, Lobelia, pansy, snapdragon, poppy, and Virginian stock. Consider summer flowering bulbs such as amaryllis, calla, canna, dahlia, gladiolus, lily, and tuberose begonia. Perennials include candytuft, coral bells, poppy, and Shasta daisy. Indoors, start summer annualscoleus, cosmos, impatiens, marigold, petunia, snapdragon, sunflower, sweet William, and Viola.

For existing trees and plants: feed deciduous fruit and citrus trees, established rhubarb when new sprouts appear, perennials, except azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons. (Feed these when flower cycle is complete.), spring-flowering shrubs, and don’t forget potted plants. Prune apple, pear, plum, peach, and nectarine trees, roses, winter jasmine as soon as it has finished blooming, early spring-blooming flowering shrubs like butterfly bushes and crape myrtles.


Savor Summer Flavors

February 10, 2010 Registered & Protected

Sacramento, CA | There are many good reasons to preserve produce. Flavor, freshness, natural wholesome ingredients, and convenience are what we think of first. For Millie Bachofer, retried anesthetist nurse, it’s also about ensuring summer’s best all winter long.

 Born and raised on a Kansas farm with five siblings, Millie’s parents grew most of their food, from beef and poultry to fruits and vegetables. “My mother canned big time.” Millie recalls, “Even pork sausage. Everyone helped with the canning and in the garden.” With this much zeal, mealtime was a prideful feast of flavors and aromas.

 After Millie grew up, completed her education, and married Frank (now retired bricklayer representative for the international union), the newlyweds moved to California for warmer climate. Once they settled into their own home, Millie dug her fingers into the backyard soil and planted a vegetable garden. That summer, Millie entered preserves and homemade breads in the California State Fair. Since then, Millie has won countless blue ribbons and the prestigious “best of show” award. Some of Millie’s entries have included chili sauces, jellies, sweet pickles, coffee cakes, and zucchini spreads. Although Millie stopped entering preserves ten years ago, she continues to can, and compete, with her homemade breads.

Each year, Frank prepares the soil before Millie plants her summer vegetables. The raised, brick bed is small, 120 square feet, but the harvest is bountiful. These days, Millie plants cucumbers, bell peppers, jalapeños (for salsa), eggplants, zucchini, and several tomato varieties. Millie prefers small Juliet and Sungold cherry tomatoes for salads, and Roma for preserving chili sauce. Fruits from her backyard include peaches and apricots. When Bing cherries and rhubarb are available, Millie buys in bulk at a local farmer’s market.

From the get-go, Frank has helped Millie with the soil preparation and canning. In fact, cooking and mealtime cleanup has been a family affair since the couple wed. When their three children were old enough, Frank and Millie instilled this same work ethic by teaching them to pitch in with the cooking. While Millie has remained the primary cook, everyone learned about food provisions and teamwork.



Even though their children are grown now and living away from home, Frank continues to help prepare meals. During canning season, the familiar rhythm of small talk and clanging jars infuses the kitchen while Frank peels and Millie slices and packs jars. “I’ve been doing this for so many years,” Frank said, matter-of-factly, “I can’t think of any reason why I shouldn’t. Millie mows the lawn for me when I go fishing,” Frank reasons.

When canning season has passed, Millie knows she can count on the scents and flavors of summertime to satisfy their stomachs and palates on cold, wet days. It’s as simple as reaching into the pantry and opening a jar of preserves. “Canning gives me a good feeling that I’ve done something constructive that the family loves,” Millie says. Providing nourishing meals truly is a labor of love for Millie—and Frank—whose summer bounty brings quality flavors and comfort all winter long. Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre. All rights reserved.



Julie & Julia

February 8, 2010

I just finished watching Julie & Julia on DVD for the umpteenth time. Except for the use of the f-word, I LOVE everything about this movie:  the actors, the sets, the lighting, the music, the perfectly stupendous transitions between scenes, a-n-d the love letters.

Paul Child’s correspondence to his brother and Julia’s to her sister and her pen pal express what is oftentimes a rare, supportive relationship between couples. Who would have known–not Paul or Julia, I’m sure–that their loved ones treasured the letters so much they kept them for a lifetime.

Then there’s Julia’s passion to lead a constructive life . . . “to have something to do,” in France. Julie’s was to fulfill a writing talent lost in the publishers’ world of daunting rejections. Together–without ever having met one another–Julie and Julia found their way through their love of cooking.

The first time I watched Julie & Julia, I walked out of the movie theater with a desire to learn how-to-love-to-cook. That was two months ago. It hasn’t happened yet! Frankly, I don’t think it will. Nevertheless, these characters, in their real-life roles, reassure me that LOVE enlightens us to all types of passions and channels. We just have to keep trying. Try until we discover the right lover (if you’re already single, that is), hobby, career, or whatever it is that we seek. Never give up!

Technically, Saint Valentine’s Day is for sweethearts, but to me it’s also for all things LOVED, now and in the future.

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day!

Copyright © 2010 Dianne Marie Andre.

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