My Daughter and the Garlic Project

It’s been a difficult summer. Therefore, I’ve decided to write only one story to try and sum up everything. It has nothing to do with the house or the renovation but about my relationship with my daughter vis a vis my attempt to grow garlic.

Around the time the first buds of garlic started to appear in the Red House garden, my daughter decided in her final semester of high school that although she had already been accepted to a very expensive college, she thought (incorrectly) that she could blow off going to class, not hand in work that was missing, and last but not least, decide she wasn’t going to take any more tests! (The latter she tried to rationalize with the following logic: why take a test that you know you are going to fail anyway?)

While I would have preferred to spend my days thinking about the Red House rather than to test or not to test, suddenly during the months of May and June, my cell phone number  became the #1 speed-dial option on my daughter’s guidance counselor’s phone. He, in turn, gave me a serious reality check that I had a daughter who was in real fear of not graduating from high school.

To say that I was embarrassed about this turn of events (me, the high school honors student and college graduate), was putting it mildly.  In fact I was horrified; I tried to pass off her sudden ennui as a phase of “senioritis,” but then realized it was much more than that.  For the first time in her 18 years, her father and I started worrying about her grades.  This was particularly uncharted territory for us since we both believed that grades didn’t matter much as long as you learned something.

By the middle of May, we also realized she wasn’t going to get enough funding to attend the expensive college in question. Her father and I had also made the decision earlier in the year that we were not going to pay for an education that was so costly, especially when the promise of a job at the end of  four years was not a given. This proved to be not as heart-wrenching as it may sound since her grades spiraled downward and she actually had shown little interest in a field that was supposed to be her major. I decided she had better think about a back-up school or she may end up with no place to go. So she put in a few late applications to a couple of schools in the city, we sent in another application fee, and waited to hear back.

I, in the meantime, went up to the Red House to deal with my ever growing crop of garlic.  I visited a local farmer’s market one Saturday and eyed a bag of scapes that someone was selling.

Two Bucks at the Farmer’s Market Gets You A Bag of Scapes

Since I remembered seeing plenty of scapes growing in my garden but failed to cut them, I realized I had already made my first garlic mistake.  Theory is, you need to cut the scapes when they appear so all the energy gets diverted back to the garlic bulbs still in the ground.

I began to wonder somehow if the mistake I made with the garlic was reflective of the mess I was facing back home.  Should I have been able to change something in her life to divert her energies back to her studies?  While that was probably me channeling some existentialist theories, ultimately she, not I, was responsible for her (in my opinion) bad choices.

So while I thought the scapes that I failed to cut earlier in the summer looked lovely, ultimately they wouldn’t amount to what they could be. I have to admit, this correlation between the two (the stunted garlic, the stunted daughter) was haunting me.

Garlic Scapes in the Red House Garden

Both of us forged ahead.  She did graduate from high school as my previous story revealed but somehow failed math.  While she didn’t “technically” need math to graduate from high school what she failed to realize is that she needed math to get into college. Suddenly one of the back-up colleges that she applied to, sending her a conditional admittance letter, rescinded their decision when she went to take a math placement test and failed it.

I meanwhile, working off of a recipe the farmer selling the bag of scapes had given me, put my $2 worth of green shoots in a food processor and attempted to make pesto.

An Artfully Arranged Scape

I suppose she and I both felt at that point that we had been through the grinder. I didn’t particularly like the scape pesto I ended up with and she didn’t like the idea she couldn’t get the money to go to her first choice school.  Like the scape pesto I made, everything was wrong; in my case it revolved around the texture of the dish, plus it was just too green. Somehow though I just couldn’t bring myself to throw it out; it had to be eaten even if I could only manage a little bit at a time.

Scape Pesto

My dislike for this new-fangled pesto mirrored the increasing distastefulness of our family life.  We moved to Plan C which we realized was the only option left after my daughter didn’t get into any of the city colleges.  She and I begrudgingly filled out an application to our local community college and I managed to find a kind soul who had summer duty in her high school guidance office who was able to pull all the paperwork together that we needed, again.

I decided this painful ordeal was similar to me trying to harvest my first head of garlic.  Now, I’m the last person to believe everything I read online, but I did come across an entry from someone who claimed garlic can easily be dug up with a little bit of elbow grease and a fork.  Here’s what happened when I tried to follow his advice; my garlic broke in half and the fork was dented, too.

Not The Way To Harvest Garlic

The nearly-broken-fork and barely intact piece of garlic probably should have given me an idea of what else the summer had in store for us.  Apparently, having a daughter who could barely get through high school wasn’t enough, I needed to have said daughter’s  on-again, off-again boyfriend be behind the wheel of her car one afternoon and get into a car accident.

Now while no one was hurt and the boyfriend technically wasn’t at fault (other than not being quick enough to get out of the way of a driver who wasn’t paying attention to avoid the collision), what we didn’t realize was that the boyfriend was driving the car with a suspended license!  This coupled with the fact that the car sustained over $11,000 in damages resulted in our insurance company immediately cancelling our policy after writing a really big check to the auto body repair shop.

I spent the next few days looking at the garlic growing in the garden and fielding phone calls (no pun intended) from insurance agents who said they were unhappy to inform me that we were suddenly placed in a high risk category because of this mishap and that we could possibly be looking at premiums as high as $12,000 per year for car insurance.

A Field of Garlic

Thoughts of every project I wanted to do on the Red House in the next two years started evaporating, right before my eyes. And while the garlic growing actually looked ok, attractive even, I knew it was  just not right.

I thought about all the healing properties garlic was supposed to have and wondered how I was possibly going to dig it all up by Labor Day weekend. It would be naive of me to think if I perhaps ate enough of it everything both inside me and around me would get better. I suddenly remembered breastfeeding both of my kids when they were infants and trying to avoid eating foods (like garlic) that might wreak havoc on tiny babies tummy’s.  I had to think, perhaps if I had eaten a clove or two, then nursed, perhaps I could have increased her stamina to not just coast along and barely make it, but to finish proudly.

I picked one final clove before I left the Red House and went back to deal with getting new insurance, a car repaired, and the results of yet another placement test at the local college. It was a nearly perfect bulb. Let’s hope that’s how she turns out, too.

Nearly Perfect Head of Garlic from the RH Garden

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Fried Green Tomatoes: The Garden So Far

It’s been very very hot up at the Red House and even with the complicated sprinkler system Lynn has set up, some things are being watered, others are not. (Half the garden is on a timer, half is not, half the hose was run over and flattened by our car, the other half just had a kink in it.)

I’m disappointed that all the zucchini I planted have revealed zucchini flowers only. So if any chefs out there want flowers for stuffing, just let me know!

All Flowers, No Actual Veggies!

I also have lots of peas and beans, both of which I picked and picked and we ate and ate.

Fresh Peas


Green beans with the lone pepper that grew

Also, for the first time ever in a garden, I was able to grow sunflowers aka known as “happy heads” in our family because of a family trip we took one summer to the south of France. Our daughter Rachel, probably around 10 or so at the time, saw so many sunflowers (i.e.,”happy heads” ) bobbing to and fro as we drove past fields and fields of sunflowers that forever more amongst the four of us that’s what sunflowers will always be called! (Obviously, this was a trip that was taken where simply looking out the car window for entertainment (and education, I might add) was the norm, and texting was still a few years away.)

Happy Head Sunflowers

There’s also brussels sprouts and asparagus gone wild, and literally towers of lettuce. Now, I know you’re not supposed to let lettuce grow that tall because it supposedly makes it bitter, but I picked some of the lower leaves, and the truth was it tasted just fine and better than anything I’d get in a supermarket anyway.

Lettuce “Towers”

More reassuring, however, is that I will eventually have lots of red tomatoes because right now there are so many green ones growing in all different shapes and sizes.  Since we couldn’t wait to try one in its red state, Lynn decided to fry some green ones up and then topped them with fresh basil!  They were so yummy, thank you sweetie!

Frying Green Tomatoes

A Plate Full!

 See here they are before we cut them up and ate them! I predict buckets and buckets of sauce down the road…

Tomatoes on the Vine
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A French-Inspired Fourth of July Followed By A Basement Flood…

When it was Bastille Day a few days ago and we ended up throwing a couple of burgers on the grill (chased down however,  with a Cote du Rhone), I realized that our 4th of July had actually been kind of French.

I splurged at Fairway before heading up to the Red House and picked up a lovely duck breast which I thought I could cook fairly quickly on the grill.

Amazing D’Artagnan Duck Breast

I also had a hankering for crepes and thought they would make a lovely breakfast to start off the 4th.  Seeing how I don’t have a food processor or mixer up at the Red House and am genuinely too lazy to mix things by hand unless I absolutely have to, I prepared the crepe batter the night before and poured it in a container.

In the morning, I found a small enough frying pan to cook them in and before long had a small stack of crepes to eat.

Making Crepes

While I was thinking my crepes would of course be sweet with a topping of fresh raspberries and local maple syrup, Lynn decided his would be savory.  So, the smoked salmon I was saving for lunch that day, ended up being eaten with the crepes for breakfast.

Norwegian Smoked Salmon

At first I thought Lynn would eat the crepes like a “normal” person, (with utensils) but no, he ended up rolling the smoked salmon inside the crepe and making it burrito-like.

Smoked Salmon Crepe “Burrito”

I, on the other hand, stuck with tradition, and ate my crepes in a civilized manner (with a fork and a knife!) I know, I know, sometimes I’m just no fun.

Crepes with Raspberries

This breakfast for the first time since acquiring the Red House, we were actually able to enjoy on our newly built deck.  Last summer I had bought an outdoor furniture set complete with big red pillows and even a red umbrella!

Partially Finished Deck!

While I, of course, coveted much hipper outdoor furniture I had seen at Crate & Barrel, (with outrageous price tags to boot), this set (four chairs, the table and cushions) cost me a mere $99 from Walmart. And the umbrella? Well, I found that online for $39!

Comfy Red Chair!

The fact that these chairs are the most comfortable chairs I’ve ever had in my entire life (really), makes it even sweeter.

We did occasionally get up from the chairs that day, and I was about to make some crab cakes as an appetizer before I put the duck on the grill, when suddenly we heard the sump pump do its thing in the basement.  Well, that was curious I thought, since there hadn’t been any rain in days, which meant there had to be an ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF WATER IN THE BASEMENT.

Since the Red House basement is particularly scary, I sent Lynn down to investigate and sure enough a pipe had burst.  In order to get the water to stop, we would have had to turn off the main water valve.  Obviously, if we did that we wouldn’t have any water for eating, washing or drinking, so that wasn’t a viable option.  One of us (not me) had the not-so-brilliant idea we would try to duct tape the leak (that didn’t work), while the other one of us (me) thought rigging up a contraption to get the water to flow directly into the sump pump rather than pool on the floor would be a more manageable temporary solution.

It took about 2 hours to finagle some old metal radiator covers that we positioned under the burst pipe so that the water would go right into the pump.  We thought about calling a plumber but seeing how it was nearly 8:30 p.m. on the 4th of July and the water was still at a non-threatening level, we thought our “flood” could wait until the morning.

Which is why even though I managed to fry the crab cakes up relatively quickly after this plumbing adventure, by the time I got the duck breast on the grill, it was pretty dark outside. The crab cakes, courtesy of an easy recipe I found in Food & Wine, consisted solely of crab, mayo, hot sauce, and homemade breadcrumbs.

Amazing Crabcakes

And while I thought the duck cooked up perfectly fine (slightly pink in the middle), the photograph I took shows the meat swimming in a pool of grease.  This shot I absolutely cannot publish.

I will however, leave you with this, what the old deck used to look like, broken and crumbling and slippery when it snowed.

Old Porch, Finally Gone

Happy belated 4th!

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Reflections From the Red House: Baking in a Heat Wave and Surviving a High School Graduation

Yes, it has actually taken me nearly three weeks to get over my youngest child’s graduation and coming up to “relax,” at the Red House has given me a moment to reflect on this event. (I’m “relaxing” because it’s raining which gives me a bit of reprieve from gardening since Lynn is busy with moulding and luckily I know nothing about moulding other than after you’ve ripped it down, somehow you have to put it back up.)

Even though we weren’t having a big gradation party, I still had to take a day off from work to do all the cooking. Now remember, I’m the girl who doesn’t blink an eye about making Thanksgiving dinner in under four hours (even with all the side dishes) so I was surprised that making everything for graduation took me nearly twice that long.

First problem of the day was that we were in the middle of a heat wave. I should mention that in all the years we’ve lived on Long Island, we’ve made do with old school box fans, coupled with a window fan or two.

Old School Box Fan

This I realized was not going to work when the temperature both in and outside the house was over 90 degrees!  (Yes, I actually went outside to my car to take a picture of the temp!)

It’s Definitely Hot!

So, Lynn decided to haul out our really big air conditioner and set it up in the living room, hoping a bit of the cold air would waft into the kitchen (it didn’t), when I realized that when I started to make the chocolate-covered strawberries, I forgot I left the chocolate in my pantry! Imagine how not funny it was to discover that the chocolate had completely melted inside the wrapper and going to the store for more wasn’t an option. So, I simply squeezed what chocolate I could out of the wrapper (don’t all good chefs do that?) and voila, the double boiler cooking time to “melt” the chocolate was cut by 99%.

My Melted Chocolate Mistake

I quickly got the chocolate to stick to the strawberries and popped them in the refrigerator but was melting myself since for reasons known only to the baking gods I had also decided to bake:

1) Regular bread

2) Zucchini bread

3) Pound cake

4) Brownies

5) A cherry cake

6) Carrot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Home-made Bread

While all of this was either baking, mixing or waiting for one of these two steps to happen, I also was trying to set the table and put together a three-tiered cardboard dessert tower.

Wilting Rose Table Decorations



The Dessert Tower

Now, everyone who knows me, knows that I absolutely detest baking.  I mean, yes, I can do it but all the mixing (butter, eggs, flour, etc., etc.,) is just not fun!  Yet, I still do it. And while the brownies were from a box, everything else was made from scratch. The cherries I needed for the cherry cake needed to be pitted by hand, the zucchini bread needed to be closely monitored since at the last moment I decided to make them miniature size and wasn’t too sure about the cooking temperature, and my favorite Bundt pan (the one I  normally bake the pound cake in) had mysteriously disappeared one day on the Long Island Railroad (don’t ask.)

Fresh Cherries For the Cherry Cake

Miniature Zucchini Breads

I mean really, anyone else who was sane would have simply ordered a cake from a bakery and that would have been the end of it.  Don’t my “slightly” chocolate covered strawberries look nice, though?

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

I did manage to get through all the baking and the heat and even made dinner, too, on top of all the desserts.

Aerial Shot of some of the Desserts

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My Aching Back: A Temporary Kitchen Sink And A Garden Growing Slowly

I decided the old farm sink that was held together by duct tape on top of some sort of cabinet had to go.

The Kitchen "Sink"

So we corralled someone who was doing a different home repair project for us one day to rip it out. He was even polite enough to clean up all the mouse droppings underneath for us without being asked to do so!

In the meantime, we’re using a utility tub to wash everything and using a table we picked up from Ikea to put the dishes on to dry.

The Temporary Sink…

What I didn’t realize before I decided to go ahead and have him tear out the old sink however, was that the new sink, hooked up as it is, is considerably lower than the old one.  Which means, I have to bend nearly in half to wash a plate or a pan!  Maybe that’s why my back has been hurting?  Granted, I do in fact have a couple of herniated discs (5 actually) that were sustained 20+ years ago lifting my firstborn in and out of his car seat but only on occasion do I get flare-ups.  (I would have loved to insert a picture of child #1 here, but, ha ha ha, all the pictures are old school and tucked away in photo albums!  And if anyone is thinking “summer scanning project”? The answer is, I don’t think so!)

But back to the present…  Apparently I am a glutton for punishment because after I finished washing the dishes in my bent state, I decided to go out to the garden and tackle all the weeds.  We have an awful lot of weeds growing between everything I’ve planted because of all the rain we’ve had.  Luckily, I noticed what looked like some sort of weed sprouting pretty yellow flowers on the side of the house, and its attractive nature gave me a bit of a push to tackle this unpleasant task.

How Can Weeds Be This Pretty?

So I made my way over to the newly fenced in garden and pulled as many as I could, let some just be, and tried to straighten up ever so slowly so as not to particularly aggravate one disc in particular which just happens to be located above my ass! (I always thought this was my L5 for those who have disc problems but when I researched it, your L5 is located down by your big toe and that’s actually the only part of my body that is not hurting these days!)

In this bent position I did manage to discover that the following were growing already: beets, celery and lots and lots of brussel sprouts.

Baby Beets



Brussels sprouts

Why is Brussels sprouts so difficult to spell? And why do I always forget to add the “s” after Brussel… sorry about that.

Anyway, I had a ton of celery last year and since I’m not a big celery fan I thought I wouldn’t do it again, yet when I went to the nursery to buy my plants, it just looked so green and crunchy that I couldn’t resist. Hence, the repeat planting of last year.

On another note, everything I’ve read about how the garlic should be “turning” and making something called “scapes” which one can apparently eat, or should technically cut back to make the garlic hardier, have actually appeared on my crop.  Wow, had I not see the youtube video of what this was supposed to be like, I would have thought there was something wrong with the garlic.  But, no, it’s turning out exactly as it should. See the way the flower stalk is curling?  That’s the “scape” part.

Garlic Scapes

I also have an incredible amount of lettuce and peas, so time will tell what actually grows and what the animals don’t eat (even after building the fence).

Fresh Lettuce!

Hopefully, by the time we get back up to the Red House, there will be more of everything to feed us through the summer. And eat and enjoy it we will.

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The Toaster Oven That Doesn’t Toast

This is a short story.  We had a toaster oven we had inherited from our son’s ex-girlfriend’s father.  Really.  I put in on a baker’s rack in the Red House and was just lucky that it kind of worked.

Red House "Appliances" - Coffee Maker and Toaster Oven

But the reality was the toaster oven was really small and I saw this new bigger toaster oven on sale one day that I thought would be so much better.  So I bought it and I plugged it in and put in a couple of pieces of bread to make toast one morning.  Except it didn’t have a toast function!  How could you call a toaster oven a “toaster” oven if it doesn’t toast bread!

The New "Toaster" Oven

Needless to say I was shrieking.  Lynn, trying to be positive during my hysteria, thought it was ok to have “warm” bread.  “Warm” bread?  I don’t want warm bread for breakfast the rest of my life I want toast!

This meant I had to go out and buy a real toaster! And maybe I was channeling a little bit of Martha Stewart during this shopping expedition because I couldn’t even find one that matched!  I wanted a black or a stainless steel toaster.  What I got was white and grey. I have to live with that.  Actually, considering we have been living in an unfinished state of white and grey sheetrock going on 2 years now, I guess the new toaster does match….

Old School Toaster

Oh yeah, it works really well, too.  And the “toaster” oven? Well, I made a batch of oatmeal cookies first thing.

First Cookies in the Toasterless Oven

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Progress: Old Porch Gone, New Window In and Making Toaster Oven “Baguette” in Between

This past month we’ve managed to put in new French doors and our old cement porch is finally history!  That’s the good news.  The bad news is the first week our porch was demolished, we had to use a cinderblock to step up into the kitchen. This is manageable if you’re not carrying anything, but difficult if you’re lugging in a cooler full of food, bottles of wine, and laundry. Should I mention that it was pouring rain, too, and the soil below turned to a big messy puddle of mud?

New French Doors, Temporary "Step"

In case you’ve forgotten what the old cement porch looked like, here it is.

Old Cement Porch

In the process we also put in a new kitchen window and while I would have liked it to be even bigger than it is to really maximize our view of the property, I had to stay within budget and order a simple replacement window that supposedly was a few inches larger.  On the outside of the house, it doesn’t look that much bigger, but it’s centered and guess, what, the windows actually open!  How cool is that?  (Really, when you’re doing a house renovation of this magnitude, you’re just happy that anything works.)

New Kitchen Window

Old Kitchen Window

On the culinary front, I decided to try a new bread recipe, baguette to be precise, from the late labor leader Albert Shanker. Since I had been using a New York Times recipe for years that I wasn’t particularly fond of (the dough was always really gooey and difficult to work with), I thought it was time to not only try something new but hopefully  more manageable, too.  I also wanted something that I could make in our toaster oven (the one that doesn’t toast) so thought making “mini baguettes” might be feasible.

I made the dough beforehand and brought it up to the house.  I let it sit, then cut it in half and tried to fashion each half into something that resembled a baguette shape but in reality looked like a hero.

Baguette....Sort of

I popped each loaf into a baguette form and put it in the toaster oven.  Since I was afraid that “misting” or throwing in a cup of water to give it the steam effect the bread would need to make it crunchy would cause my toaster oven to catch on fire, (or maybe even the house), I added a metal drip pan filled with about half a cup of water and put it in the oven.  It appears that this oven is afflicted with the same problem as my oven on Long Island — one half of the oven cooks faster (and hence darker) than the other half! This meant, one baguette turned out darker than the other. I let them cool a bit and while the desired crunchy top was achieved, I thought they could have spent a few more minutes cooking.

Homemade Bread!


With the bread we had a simple lunch of marinated white anchovies (thanks for the gift Mom!).

Spanish Anchovies

And some burrata, tomatoes, and a few leaves of basil I managed to steal from the garden.

The basil is the only thing here from the garden...

It’s just then I realized our contractor had taken off the front of the house, too!

Red House Gets A Face Lift!

Now even though I was attached to the old “look” of the front of the house and the columns, the scale was all wrong, not to mention the fact that it was actually about to collapse from all the rot! (Really, I was always terrified whenever anyone was actually standing under that part of the house!)

The Red House

We did keep two of the columns though and are trying to think of something we could do with them.

Lovely Red House Column...



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Planting, A New Fence, and Please No More Pizza on the Grill!

I rarely write about something kind of dumb that my husband has done…yet, when it comes to gardening, well, I just had to share this one.

When I’m busy (which is always), he offers to “help.” This could be something as simple as laundry, dinner, or gardening. In March, for reasons I don’t quite remember, I decided to attempt to start tomatoes inside our house on Long Island from seeds.  Now, I’ve never ever done this before but picked up a couple of those biodegradable fiber containers (with eight “pots”  per container), filled them with dirt, threw in some seeds and waited for them to grow.

Eventually a couple of thin green baby tomato plants emerged and this past week, I asked him to do some planting for me.  I (or so I thought) gently explained that since the composition of these containers disintegrates in the soil, he could just rip each one apart and put it in the dirt, so no need to try to transplant each and every one.

I, always being in a rush when planting, would have taken a knife or scissor to each box and dumped them in the ground.  This is what I found when I came home from work:

The Entire Cell Pack: Planted!

The entire container, as is, in the ground. I decided to just stand there in the garden and shake my head.  Who knows, maybe something will actually grow this way, but I doubt it. Furthermore, I didn’t even have a conversation with him about it.  I guess my silence was enough when he asked, “What?”

Meanwhile, back up at the Red House, it was Memorial Day weekend, traditionally, for me at least, the weekend I devote to planting.  Since I had a lot more “garden” than I’d had before, I bought a lot of plants.

I actually never had started anything from seed before (not counting the aforementioned doomed tomato plants) but since seed packets were oh so much cheaper than buying starter plants, I figured, what the hell I’d give it a shot. Therefore, the Red House now has green beans, acorn squash, pumpkins, zucchini, and sunflowers planted — all from seed.  What will and will not grow I’m assuming will eventually reveal itself.

Green Beans From Seeds

But I’m not an idiot, I also bought lots and lots of plants that were healthy and larger enough to start bearing fruit..shortly. This included celery and basil, beets and spinach, leaf lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, brussel sprouts, two different kinds of peppers, and even more green beans.  I guess now reading the list, I went a little overboard.

Basil, Celery, Tomatoes, Peppers

While I started planting, the first priority, however, was to get some sort of fence in the ground to ward off the deer.  Last year when we planted, the deer and I had a field day (they won) leaving me with nearly nothing to eat!  This year I was determined it would be different.  If I was spending this much time and money planting, I was going to make sure that I got to savor everything I was growing.

Lynn had found some metal posts hidden in the back of the garage a few weeks ago.  They would come in handy.

Simple Metal Posts

I actually thought they were ok as is. But oh no, apparently they weren’t “good” enough and Lynn spent nearly a day spray painting them green!

The New "Green" Posts (In Color Only)

Sometimes you just have to grin and bear it, really.

Getting into Memorial Day mode, I did put out our “lanterns” signifying the unofficial beginning of summer.

Red House Lanterns

Since I had already planned to do hamburgers on the grill when my parents came up to visit, I thought it would be fun to try and do pizza on the grill the night before.  Apparently I had forgotten that last year’s pizza on the grill was a disaster because I blindly went ahead and tried it again anyway.

I brought up the dough and rolled it out and thought if I put the dough on a wooden paddle board, I could simple “flip” it onto the pizza stone that was supposed to be getting super hot on the grill.

Pizza Dough

What really happened was, apparently you need to be very tall in order to have the height you need (in addition to great wrists) to flip the dough so it lands on the stone looking like a pizza pie should — nice and round.  When I flipped my sorry  little dough however, it came out looking like a map of the United States!  I kid you not — look at it, the key states are there — like Florida, Maine and the West Coast!

Pizza USA

Lynn thought it was good, I thought it was pretty bad.  I mean really, the crust was too doughy, the cheese hadn’t properly melted and there was just too much sauce.  Please don’t let me try and make a pizza on a grill ever again!

Meanwhile, my parents came up the next day, and while Mom helped with the garden, Dad had the unenviable task of helping Lynn with the fence.  It was also really hot that day, and Dad, not used to much physical labor these days actually thought it was fun! (He even wrote a story about it.) The “boys” did manage to get most of the fence up though before the weekend was over and for that I thank them both profusely.

My New Fence

Next time we’re up, I want to try out my new “gardening” boots. And hopefully everything I’ve planted will grow.

I Love These Boots (Kohl's $10.99)

And not just more weeds.  Even if they look like flowers.

Even the weeds are pretty!

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A Grilling Weekend

Since the weather has warmed up a bit we decided it would be ok to pull out the grill and cook.  First we had to drag the grill out of the garage, hose it off, and then check the propane tank.  Of course the tank was empty so  one of us (not me!), ran out to get a new tank and then we were good to go.

I had brought up a couple of steaks to grill but also had a hankering for sweet potatoes. Since I knew sweet potatoes were going to take way too long to cook on the grill, I had to cheat a bit and pop them in the toaster oven. Since using the toaster oven any time in the house causes all the lights to flash on and off (yes, we still haven’t quite finished updating all the outlets), it’s kind of annoying.

After tolerating about 45 minutes of blinking lights, I’d had enough and decided to finish them on the grill as the steaks were cooking. We had a simple green salad, a bottle of red wine and that was dinner.

Dinner the next night I thought would be easier.  I had brought up some frozen shrimp and was thinking of making a shrimp in a zesty green sauce.  I thought I’d grill the shrimp first, then finish them in a wok with some parsley pesto (made by hand with a mortar and pestle).

The Red House "Food Processor"

Problem was I forgot to bring up some garlic but got the idea that perhaps I could dig up one of the many garlic bulbs growing in the garden. That didn’t work too well, because the garlic when I finally freed it from the soil, looked more like a large green onion (albeit tinged purple) than anything else, but I cut it up anyway and if nothing else it smelled like garlic!

Now, I think I got the original hankering for owning a mortar and pestle because I saw Jamie Oliver on TV once crush some herbs with some olive oil, a bit of salt and pepper, and voila, he had instant pesto.  Not I.  I kept crushing the parsley but it just kind of sat there and got well, mushy.

Not So Pretty Parsley Pesto

I put it aside and threw the shrimp on the grill.  In the meantime, I cheated this weekend and brought up some burrata and sliced prosciutto from the Italian deli.


I made a quick tomato salad with some red onions and by the time everything was cut up, the shrimp were done.

Tomato Side Dish

Shrimp on the "Barbie"

The shrimp were pretty decent even with the ersatz parsley pesto. Before we left the next day though, I decided I would grill some chicken along with a couple of potatoes so that when we got back  to Long Island we’d have dinner!

Great Grilled Chicken, Potatoes, Too

Now Lynn has some fond memories of his Mom cooking up some extra food (chicken in particular) when they went on picnics so that once they got home, she didn’t have to worry about “what was for dinner.”  It made perfect sense for me, too.

Ironically, we hit absolutely no traffic on the ride home, which meant the chicken I had double-wrapped in tinfoil was still warm even after a four hour ride! And pretty darn good.

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Garlic Is Growing

While its been a mild winter and bone dry, the garlic is growing up at the Red House — lots of cute little green shoots poking up through the soil which is encouraging.

Garlic Growing in Very Dry Soil

Not so encouraging is the amount of deer we keep seeing on the property which I know, once spring is in full swing, they will be eating all that I try to grow.  There are certain things I know the deer aren’t too fond of, like jalapenos.  Perhaps they’ll be equally disdainful of the 100+ heads of garlic I’m growing, too?  I should be so lucky.

I’m not particularly fond of the idea of having to stand guard to make sure they don’t get into the garden, but we do have a couple of thoughts in mind.

1. Build a really high fence (think 8 feet). But that will probably be to expensive and time-consuming to construct.

2. Build a smaller fence and put deer repellent around it. (Less expensive but may not work.)

Luckily we found some metal stakes buried underneath some weeds at the back of the garage.  We dug them out, dusted them off, and even in their rusted state, I think we can use them to put together some sort of fence.

The Metal Stakes We Found

We bought a couple rolls of plastic fencing and hopefully, we’ll be able to build the fence high enough so the deer don’t try to jump over it, or worse, do jump and hurt themselves on the jagged edges.

In the meantime, the garlic growing inspired me to do some planting.  We lost one rose bush over the winter, but I came across some lovely blue hydrangeas that I planted on the side of the house.

Some New Hydrangeas

The hostas I planted last summer are coming back to life, too. It will be a lovely spring, I just know it.

Spring Hostas

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