Category Archives: garden

morning thoughts


Last night I dreamed about my cat who was dying.  It was my cat, but not my cat (in the ways that dreams work).  She was Toby, but not Toby.  She was curled into a ball on my chest and was shaking and heaving.  And as much as I tried, I could not remember her name.

I woke to the sinus ache of dry hot air, another night of the “Santa Anas,” yesterday’s temps peaking at 104 according to my car’s thermometer.  I immediately stepped outside to check the progress of the garden.  The peas that I planted a few weeks ago are surviving the dryness, thanks to a regular dousing.  The Siberian winter tomato varieties that we planted a few weeks ago are thriving.  We’ve never planted winter tomatoes before, but it seemed worth a try and the horticulturist at our local nursery was insistent that they would set fruit.  I wonder if they are as acclimated to dry desert winds as they are to the shortened days of the season.  They already have several blossoms apiece.

I am barefoot in the garden though I probably should not be.  We’re rebuilding our back house and the ground around the garden is covered in splinters of wood and screws and small sharp things.  But I take my chances anyways, today.

I sit on the pavers in the sun, near the plants, and marvel that it’s fall and yet it’s hotter than the summer.  Though this happens every year, it always feels strange and new when the dry winds blow.

My son moved home this week, for awhile.  It’s a strange thing to have my kids around–it is so easy to share with them, everything.  Yet I struggle with parenting them, as adults, never knowing how much to guide, how much to let them do for themselves.  We went grocery shopping together yesterday afternoon and as he put the shopping cart away he deftly lifted the entire thing over the parking lot median, as if it was as light as a gallon of milk.  I am jealous of his easy strength, and am reminded of my middle age.  The time when I carried him on my hip feeling more than two dozen lifetimes ago.

For lunch he and I have a salad of spicy mesclun lettuce from the garden, picked at midday.  The leaves are wilted and limp, but have so much flavor that they overpower the small grape tomatoes that I’ve added into the mix.

The house is full of the smells of fresh bread, as Stijn is baking his next round of sourdough.  We watched Michael Pollan’s “Air” documentary a few days ago and ever since I have craved bread, remembering all of the dark and rich loaves of Scandinavia.  Little else is as interesting to me right now, as that.




The past few weeks I’ve been fairly contemplative about where I am in my life.  I passed a milestone birthday and I marked the anniversary of my cancer diagnosis (or rather, I didn’t mark it at all this year, which felt alright).  Also, I visited with a few old friends recently where we discussed all that’s happened in the past few decades.

And after all that, I suspect that I just might jinx myself if I say that things are pretty positive right now.  But it also seems worth noting that while there are still some hard days and some things that I hope to change about my circumstances, for the most part it’s just really good:  my days are filled with interesting activities that are mostly of my own choosing, I enjoy my work colleagues very much, there is little friction in my family life, I have few health complaints, my home/garden are well-worth returning to each evening, and I average about 7.5 hours of sleep at night (and every once in awhile, I even take a nap).

(photo taken in my garden this weekend)

the sound of silence…

The laryngitis hit a few days ago and doesn’t seem eager to leave.  So now I must be silent and let my voicebox rest and heal.

In the meantime, I am missing calling Ellycat in from the back porch, giggling with the kiddos on skype, and rehearsing my day with Stijn over dinner.  Not to mention the difficulty that I found in teaching my three-hour seminar and the work meetings that I’ve had to put on hold until I can vocalize.

Of course it’s a temporary thing and I expect to wake up in a day or two and be able to talk comfortably again. But in the meantime it feels awfully lively with all these thoughts knocking around in my head that I can’t share with anyone around me.  But that does seem to be the gift of getting older, that there are so many thoughts and associations and memories and wonderings.  I can easily fill an hour by sitting in the garden enjoying the scent of the basil plants, and rehearsing in my mind my favorite basil recipes and basil foods, as well as the most humble and the most exquisite caprese salads that I’ve ever tasted.  And the pretty soon the sun is setting and the hour is past and now I’ve moved on to the rosemary…



for the big ones

I’ve had a few zucchini piled up on the counter that I haven’t been sure what to do with.  They aren’t the young tender ones that taste great in zucchini carpaccio (which, btw, I make sans goat cheese and it is still super-yum) and I’m not in the mood for baking zucchini bread or zucchini cake.

So, this recipe from the gals at 3191 was just what I needed.  I adapted it by using soymilk instead of coconut milk and I put a dollop of rich plain yogurt in the center and swirled it around into the soup.  Also, I wanted to note that I made this with some BIG zucchini (you know, those ones that are lurking under the leaves that you don’t find until they are as big as your arm).  I feared that the big zukes would turn out woody or flavorless, but that was not the case at all.  And I didn’t even clean out the seeds–I just blended it all together in my Vitamix until it was creamy:

Curried Zucchini Soup with Coconut Milk
adapted from Great Food Fast

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (I used 3 medium-sized), sliced thick
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 cups stock (the original recipe just calls for water)
2/3 cup coconut soy milk

1. Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and curry powder and continue to cook, stirring constantly until fragrant (another minute).

2. Add the zucchini, potato and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until vegetables are tender (15-20 minutes).

3. Add coconut milk. Puree with immersion blender or in batches in blender until very smooth and velvety. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Seasoning depends on stock and potency and freshness of curry powder (my soup needed very little seasoning).



A view of the veggies #inthegarden #theresnoplacelikehome

A photo posted by @janaremy on

It seems a season of returns, for me.  I just barely returned to work after having to take off three weeks due to an urgent medical issue.  I am about to return to the classroom, after a summer away from teaching responsibilities.  Earlier this season I returned to vegetable gardening, a hobby that’s been on hold for about five years.  And perhaps most largely, I feel as though I am returning to being myself again, after several months (years, even) of struggling with health challenges that left me drained of my typical vim.

I have intentions of other returns, soon.  As soon as my doctor gives me the thumbs-up, I will return to outrigger canoeing and to daily yoga and to evening neighborhood walks and to globe-trotting.  I expect that not to be far away(!).

It seems that I also have the inclination to return to writing.  For so many (many) months I simply lost interest.  It felt like anything I wanted to say had already been said.  Or that I simply wanted to read long novels and putter in the soil and giggle with friends and watch BBC comedies, instead of throwing out my thoughts at a keyboard.

But those writing feelings are coming back again.  I don’t know if they’ll stick or if they’ll get subsumed in the other stuff that’s keeping me busy these days.

We shall see.


moving right along…*


Photo taken of the grapevines on the front fence of our current home. I’m sad to know that we’ll be leaving these behind, but the new house has a huge avocado tree, orange tree, and a well-developed herb garden…

Last night my son and I were watering our vegetable/herb garden at dusk and the smell was so achingly familiar. Of lavender and tomatoes and sage and basil.  And dark wet soil. Grassy and fecund.  It was the smell of the community garden plot that I nurtured for a decade.  What rich and pleasant memories that scent evoked.

Oddly enough, our garden is not at the wee corner bungalow where we moved last fall.  Our garden is at a house down the street, where we will move at the end of this month.  After eight months of living on this busy corner we realized that it was time to seek somewhere a bit quieter, with a bit more space and no grass (because who wants grass when there are so many other lovely less-thirsty plants to enjoy?).  It also has a pergola-covered back patio for our late summer evening parties and a small back house for a robotics workshop/guest lodging.

So, a few weeks ago we moved our raised garden bed plantings over to the new place, a barrow-full at a time.  Everything survived the move and is thriving in its new raised-bed location.  We even picked our first tomatoes and peppers yesterday!

While I am over-the-moon excited about the new house, lately I’ve been wondering whether I simply move too much.  At last count, I’ve moved 14 (soon to be 15) times in the past two decades, which doesn’t even account for my sabbatical wanderings last summer. There’s no moss growing on this rolling stone, that’s for sure!  But…I am starting to think that it’s time to put down roots for awhile, rather than living lightly and moving on so readily.

Being mobile is exciting and freeing, but it also has its consequences–one never has to invest much when one knows that everything is only temporary.  In so many ways, my mobility has been a defense mechanism, to prevent me from caring too much about any one place or any specific community. It also simply doesn’t seem to fit me anymore.  After all these years of being able to pack up and move on a dime, I want to stay put for awhile and accumulate a bit too many things and let myself settle into a home and a community.  I want to know my neighbors.  And their kids and their dogs.  And whether they like red or white…so when I see them coming I can make sure that I have a bottle at the ready.

*this phrase always reminds me of Super-Sara.  I still miss her so much.



This weekend I spent my time in the details.  There were drops of water on succulent plants, sun salutations to lengthen my spine, and lots of getting familiar with my new kitchen by baking and stewing and getting those last few boxes of cooking items unpacked.

For so many reasons it was worth stepping away from the “big picture” for a few days to spend time with a macro view.


I think I’m gonna get kinda mushy in this post.  But it’s so pretty outside today, I think I’ve lost my head a bit…

The longer days and the recent daylight-saving time switch mean that I’m getting home at night while it’s still light outside.  Such a huge difference that makes in how weary I am when I walk in that front door.

And today, I not only got home early, but I had enough time to water my plants (poor plants don’t get much attention in the wintertime).  There’s a lot of magic happening in my backyard right now, including

peach buds
orange blossoms
rosebuds (so many!)
heliotrope clusters
herbs that are “waking up” after getting all leggy and tired in the winter

But the most exciting discovery today was this, which took me my surprise because I’ve been checking that particular pot everyday and thought that maybe (maybe) nothing would grow:

And then I looked a bit closer and found this:

And even this (can you see how small it is when the grains of soil around it look like boulders?!:

Those three wee plants are the first growths of the tulips that came from the bulbs that came to me in a suitcase all the way from Amsterdam last year. The bulbs “wintered” in my refrigerator drawer for several weeks, then we planted them, and…then, today, sprouts!

My longtime readers know just how happy it makes me to have growing things all around me.  And of course in springtime those feelings are magnified, even more.  Now I can’t wait to see those teeny stems and leaves turn into something tall and sleek and colorful.  🙂



A portion of your soul has been entwined with mine. A gentle kind of togetherness, while separate we stand. As two trees deeply rooted in separate plots of ground, while their topmost branches come together, forming a miracle of lace against the heavens. ~Janet Miles

I loved these vines that I came across at the Huntington today–two grapevine tendrils entertwined with each other…I was also more enchanted by the statuary than usual–I even got in trouble for getting too close to a few of them in my picture-taking zeal…

rose garden


On Thursday I was having a day. A day that was full of all kinds of emotions and appointments and things. And so I planned to escape for about an hour late in the afternoon to the rose gardens at the Huntington Library. But my camera battery needed charging and I was trying to coordinate with someone else and my jaunt kept getting delayed. So by the time I headed out to the roses it was almost closing time. I’d counted on sweet-talking my favorite security guards so I could have just 10 minutes in the rose garden, but there were guards on duty who didn’t recognize me and who were not one bit swayed by my smile and plea.

So I left, without even one picture of a flower, much less a rose. Which put me in a bit of a funk.

Until, of course, I remembered that I was in Pasadena.  And it took only a few minutes before there was another rose garden in my viewfinder.