LOVE IS ALL WE NEED IN A WORLD GONE MAD

MountainMiracleA dear friend called me this morning. After catching up for a few minutes, she mentioned that someone was driving her to doctor appointments. She mentioned “he,” and before I could ask her about it, she said, “Yes, I have a ‘he’ in my life. And it’s serious.”

Let me tell you about my friend, Ginny. I met her at the gym when I lived in the Pittsburgh area, and we were in the same Tai Chi class. I noticed her immediately. She was beautiful, even in her gym clothes. Her hair was always perfectly in place. She wore tastefully applied blue eye shadow and jewelry. Often, she wore a scarf tied around her neck. Slender and graceful, she worked out and went to exercise classes, often imparting her positive attitude on others.

She radiated happiness and gave me such a boost during some very difficult times while I struggled through health issues of my own and those of my husband. On my worst days, I still rose and dressed as nicely as possible remembering Ginny’s words that looking nice helped make the world better. I know she always made me feel better.

She’d been widowed for a long time, but had never shown any interest in any man though they flocked to her. She didn’t think she’d ever find love again. Did I mention that Ginny is eighty-four years old?

Eighty-four years old, and she’s found love again. “It’s the love of my greatest dreams,” she said. When I asked his age, she hesitated.

“He’s young. Very young,” she said. Then she giggled. “He’s sixty-six.”

Her daughters don’t like it one bit since he is close to their ages, so she hesitated to tell me.

I cried at her news—absolute tears of joy.

“Love knows no bounds,” I said. “Nothing matters if you love one another and you make each other happy.”

Really, what else is there?

A wedding looms. They plan to elope. Now how sweet is that? Love at any age is love for all ages.

love hands

#Garden Abundance

IMG_0716It’s a good thing we took a break this week because, by Friday, the refrigerator and countertops overflowed with zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, and carrots! Time to get to work.

Normally, I try to spread it out over a few days, but I decided since I’m between writing projects that I’d take one day and devote to the preserving the produce.

I started with a new recipe. Zucchini Blueberry Bread. The local market called me this week to tell me local blueberries were in, and they’d saved two gallons for me. After freezing two large gallon bags for use in smoothies, I still had a full container and zucchini in the crisper. After researching online for recipes combining the two, I finally found one that I could modify for our tastes and preferences. So here it is! I’ll be adding it to the next edition of From Seed to Table, but until then here it is.IMG_0765

Zucchini Blueberry Bread

3 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup oil

1 cup maple syrup

3 cups, zucchini (unpeeled and grated in food processor)

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp almond extract

3 cups flour (I used 2 cups unbleached white, 1 cup whole wheat – personal preference)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp cloves

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

4 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:

  1. Add oil, syrup, vanilla, almond extract, and zucchini to beaten eggs.
  2. Sift dry ingredients and add to batter.
  3. Fold in blueberries.
  4. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour to one hour, fifteen minutes until toothpick comes out cleanly.
  6. Cool on rack. Bread freezes very nicely.

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We had it for breakfast this morning, and it’s very moist and delicious. I modify recipes to reduce the oil usually suggested. Then I add more zucchini because if I’m making zucchini bread, chances are I have enough to spare.

IMG_0770My husband picked the first cabbage yesterday along with a few lovely carrots. Nothing else to do but make some cole slaw. I used the recipe for freezing slaw originally from Ball Blue Book Guide to Preservingmodified for my book, From Seed to Table. When I first saw this recipe, I was skeptical, but in our family, it has a proven track record!

Here’s the recipe from From Seed to Table:

Cole slaw to freeze

This is a wonderful way to preserve all that fresh cabbage. Once thawed, add mayonnaise to taste. The flavors are even better in this slaw when thawed than when fresh, even if the cabbage wasn’t as crisp.

1 large head of cabbage, shredded

3 large carrots, grated

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp salt

1 ½ cup sugar

1 tsp dried mustard

1 cup white vinegar

½ cup water

Combine all vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Let mixture stand for one hour. Bring the rest of the ingredients to a boil and boil for three minutes. Cool. Ladle over vegetables and stir together. Place mixture in freezer bags or containers and place in freezer. We like our slaw with a little bit of mayonnaise so I add about a tablespoon to each two-serving bag when it’s unthawed. If you like an all-vinegar slaw, you don’t have to do anything except thaw the slaw when you’re ready to eat it.

We saved back some for dinner last night, and it was tart and biting, which we like. The freezer will mellow some of that.

Finally, we put together our pasta sauce, using the method and recipe from our book, which brings me to one final thing!

Normally, From Seed to Table  is $3.99 to download on Kindle, but through July 25, you can grab it for only $0.99. The book also comes in paperback. Check it out!

 

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Click on cover for $.99 cents Kindle version

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What’s growing in your garden? What’s going on at your local farmers’ market?

 

 

 

 

WATERFALLS – HEAT RELIEF

We decided to take a break this week and go out in search of waterfalls near us here in the western Smoky Mountains. The vegetables are piling up, but before we begin the arduous task of canning tomatoes, we needed a respite. Here’s a little photo journey to help beat this July heat wave of 2016.

The road trip book said Conasauga Falls were down a mostly paved road two miles off the road. Instead, we took a rough ride on a rutted road, mostly gravel, for more than three miles with no signage except the cardboard from a case of beer someone had attached to a tree, with the word “Falls” and an arrow when we reached a crossroads. That should have been our first clue that perhaps our guide book didn’t have all the information. To be fair, it did say the “less than a mile” hike to the falls was “moderately difficult.” That is definitely was but it was more than a mile down to the falls and the walk back to the car was not as easy as the book suggested with switchbacks lessening the incline. There were only two very long switchbacks and in 90-degree heat, the climb felt tortuous. But was it worth it? Take a look and judge for yourself.

 

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Conasauga Falls, Cherokee National Forest, Tellico Plains, Tennessee

 

The heat wore us down, but we continued in our quest. The next waterfall on our journey was said to be easily accessible and perfect for the handicapped. Just what we needed. And this time, the directions were perfect and the description apt. The waterfall was right next to the road. And even better, a short drive further, and we were at smaller falls–more like cascades–with a picnic spot and bathrooms.

 

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Bald River Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

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Baby Falls, Tellico River, Tennessee

 

How are you beating the heat? However, you’re doing it, I hope you’re enjoying the summer.

 

 

SUMMERTIME AND THE LIVING HAS NEVER BEEN EASIER

IMG_0729Here in the western Smoky Mountains, the rain has often skipped us this summer. No wonder when it started raining yesterday, we danced on the porch to the sound of drops on the metal roof. The garden turned its thirsty heads heavenward and drank in the beauty of a late afternoon shower. Our excitement was tempered by the thought of the folks in West Virginia who received too much too fast of the wet stuff.

Water is a stunning force and never doubt its ability to wield its power over anything in its path. It follows the road of least resistance, which sometimes means manmade things will never stand a chance. I respect its eminence and magnitude in our lives.

Early this morning found us in our kayaks on the Hiwassee River–yes, I’ve spelled that correctly. Here in western North Carolina the “a” is missing, but go ten miles into Georgia, and it is spelled “Hiawassee.” (From Chenocetah’s Weblog on Cherokee names: Both are from the Cherokee “a-yu-wa-si,” which means a meadow-like place, or a place with mostly low plants and few trees.) It’s anyone’s guess why. However you spell it or pronounce it, it shimmers in the morning sun and provides a peaceful cruise for two kayakers seeking beauty.

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Happy Fourth of July to all my fellow U.S. citizens and Merry Summer to all the rest of you. I hope you are enjoying blue skies, pleasant temperatures, and tranquil company.

CUKES & ZUCS – GARDEN MADNESS HAS BEGUN

 

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June 23, 2016

Suddenly, I’ve been thrown into overdrive in the kitchen attempting to preserve the produce starting to accumulate. The past two days found me dealing with the cucumber and zucchini madness happening right outside my door.

 

Yesterday, I decided I had enough cucumbers to do seven quarts of kosher dill pickles.

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Kosher Dills

Wrong. I had enough to do almost twice that many, but my canner only holds seven. So today I used the rest to make my bread and butter pickle chips.

 

So far, the zucchini is under control, but still three good sized ones made four loaves of zucchini bread, which will be great for when we have visitors later this summer. Nothing beats coffee, fresh fruit and zucchini bread for an easy summer breakfast.

 

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Zucchini Bread

 

 

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The Leftovers

 

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Bread & Butter

 

 

The tomatoes are starting to produce–mostly small varieties–but my husband tried a new variety this year, Black Brandywine. It’s gorgeous. Only two have been brought to the windowsill. We plan to eat them plain with salt to savor the taste, which hopefully will be as wonderful as their deep burgundy color.

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Black Brandywine

 

From Seed to Table by P.C. Zick

Walnut Date Zucchini Bread

4 eggs

3 cups flour

¾ cup maple syrup

2 cups buttermilk (use regular milk and add 1 tsp vinegar)

¾ cup chopped walnuts

¾ cup chopped dates or raisins

1 tsp cinnamon

½ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp cloves

3 cups shredded zucchini, drained

1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Mix together all ingredients until blended. Place in two greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until brown on top and toothpick inserted comes out clean.

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Acceptance and Love

IMG_0671The mass shooting in Orlando hit me hard. Maybe because I lived near Orlando for thirty years. Maybe because the death of so many in one place horrified me. Maybe because someone with mental health issues purchased an assault weapon days before. Maybe because hatred could be so strong toward people of a particular race, religion, or sexual orientation that it caused so many people to die–people who were simply enjoying a good time together.

Maybe all of the above made me cry for two days afterward anytime I saw media coverage. My heart is heavy and my prayers are for all the victims, survivors, and their loved ones.

Years ago, during the first wave of the AIDs epidemic in this country, I watched as friends and relatives ran away the gay community. Sons and daughters were left to die alone from a disease that had yet to find drugs to fight it. It happened in my own family. My uncle and aunt refused to go to their son’s bedside or to even attend his funeral all because they couldn’t accept him and his choices.

This man, my cousin, did everything he could to prove he wasn’t homosexual. He married twice, the second time Miss America of 1973, Terry Anne Meeuwsen. Both marriages ended, the first one worse than the second. The first wife took their son away and had my cousin sign away his rights of parenthood. But then, my handsome charismatic cousin continued on his path to please his parents and began dating Miss Wisconsin. My aunt and uncle were beside themselves with pleasure. And never were parents prouder than those two at the Christmas wedding several months after she ended her reign as Miss America with another famous Miss America, Phyllis George, at her side. During those years, their mantel was cluttered with photos of their daughter-in-law  with President Nixon and other dignitaries. Stories of the amount of clothes they brought when they came for visits sprinkled all their conversations when asked “How is Tom?” I found an article today in the Ocala Star Banner, giving a nod to the pride they felt. Click here to see.

When the second marriage ended, Tom moved to California. And that’s when the disconnect came. Stories of his lymph node cancer came in pieces from them, but still they didn’t go to his side. “He’s recovering now,” came the reply to my inquiries. 

And then the recovery ended with his death in 1992. His partner called asking them to attend the memorial service. They refused despite their ability to very well afford a trip from Florida to California. The partner sent them a poem about Tom. I never saw it until after my uncle died, and my aunt presented it to me. She asked me to take it and keep it safe. She couldn’t look at it, but she didn’t want it destroyed either.

So sad. And now thirty years after my cousin’s death we are living in a world where acceptance still doesn’t come. Compromise on the issues seems impossible. And a demi-god stands at his pulpit screaming more hatred and division. 

As an author, I eventually wrote about my cousin in my second novel, A Lethal Legacy. It was with the writing of this novel that I finally understood what writers meant when they said, “being in the flow” of a piece of writing. As I wrote the death scene, I closed my eyes and tears streamed down my face. My fingers flew across the keyboard without my knowledge. I was lost in the writing. Twenty years later, I still seek those moments of the “flow.” 

I have no solutions except to practice kindness and acceptance in my life and urge others to do the same. Love must conquer hate.

LL_PBOOK005From A Lethal Legacy – The narrator Ed tells Gary’s parents about his condition.

“Ed, what are you doing out in this weather?” Claire said when she opened the door in the garage to let me in. “I thought you were at the beach,” she said as I came into the kitchen.

“Ed, I was just going to have a beer. Want one?” Philip asked, as he stood with the refrigerator door open.

“Sure, Philip, that’d be great,” I said as I hugged Claire.

“Can’t sit on the porch, now can we,” Claire said as she motioned me toward the living room.

“How come you came back early? I thought Marge said you’d be gone all this week. Was it the Gulf or Atlantic this time?” Claire asked.

“Neither, although I did stop at St. George on the way home,” I said.

“Your mother is getting more and more forgetful, Ed.” This remark came from Philip.

“On the way home from where?” Claire asked.

“Mom got it right this time, Philip. I mean, that’s what I told her. I was in New Orleans. Gary called last week and asked me to visit him. And he asked me to come home and tell you something.”

“You went to New Orleans? To see Gary?” Claire seemed surprised but not upset. “Did you see Kristina, too?”

“Yes, I saw them both. Claire, Philip.” They both looked at me expectantly. “Gary’s sick, very sick.”

Silence met my words, except for the storm raging outside the sliding glass doors. The rain began slashing against the windows.

“Sick?” Claire echoed my words after a moment.

“He wants me to bring the both of you back to New Orleans. We need to leave first thing in the morning.”

“What is it? Cancer?” Philip asked.

“AIDs,” I said without emotion.

“AIDs? That’s that gay disease. It’s killing all those homosexuals. Is that it, Ed? Is that the one?” Claire’s voice rose several octaves as she sat forward on her chair.

“There’s no cure, if that’s what you mean. Claire, I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but Gary doesn’t have very much longer.” I said this as gently as I could.

“God damn it!” The outburst came from Philip. The storm moved inside. “He’s a queer, isn’t he? I always knew it. A pansy, Claire, that’s what you raised. Couldn’t even satisfy his wives, queer all along.” Philip finished his beer in one gulp.

“Shut up, Philip, just shut up.” I stood up and went over to his chair with tears streaming down my face. “Don’t you do this to Claire or to Gary. I swear I’ll kill you if you don’t shut up.”

Years of frustration with this man, who had nearly destroyed Gary’s life and now in his death wanted to strip him of his last shred of dignity, came bubbling forth from deep inside me. Philip rose from his chair, and we faced each other nearly nose to nose.

“Stop, both of you,” Claire said. “Ed, sit down, you too, Philip, and shut up. Now our son is dying, nothing else matters. Ed, when do we leave tomorrow?”

“I’d like to leave as early in the morning as possible, Claire,” I managed once I sat back down. “I need to go over to the apartment and check on Mom and Aunt Susan. I have to tell them, too. Then I need a good night’s rest, and so do the both of you.” I looked over at Philip who sat with his head in his hands. “I’ll come by around five to pick you up. That should get us to Gary’s by five or six in the evening. OK?”

“Should I call him?” Claire asked in a wounded little voice.

“It might be better to let him get his strength back. His roommate told me that the doctor started some new meds yesterday, and he seemed to even want something to eat last night.”

“His roommate.” Philip made a snorting sound.

“I mean it, Philip, if you say one more word,” I turned toward my uncle.

“Philip, that’s it, I’m warning you, too. One more word, and I walk out that door forever,” Claire said.

When I left, I was still angry with Philip. I realized I blamed Philip for Gary’s situation, for the fact that Gary had AIDs and lay dying while Philip sat in his easy chair drinking beer with his white shoes and striped blue seersucker pants. He disgusted me.

I didn’t blame Philip for Gary’s homosexuality. I believed that kind of thing is already predestined at birth or earlier. No, I blamed Philip for giving Gary the sense that he was inadequate, the sense that Gary was always lacking in some way. It was that sense of failure, of never measuring up, that left Gary searching and wanting and seeking out lovers at any opportunity. Gary never shared the details, but he told me enough for me to know that most of his adult life he led a promiscuous gay life. Only in the last year or so with Rick had he settled down to one partner. It was those multiple partners that caused his mortality to be reached long before its time. And for all of those reasons I raged at Philip in my mind as I drove to my mother’s apartment.

Gary went so far as to marry Miss America in an attempt to win his father’s approval. Probably for the few moments of his lifetime while he was in the limelight with Elizabeth, he earned his father’s superficial acceptance, but at what cost and for what reasons?

June 15 and 16 – Click here to download A Lethal Legacy for free on Amazon.