Tuesday, July 27, 2010


At 2 am this morning, I was up... and when I checked my phone, it said July 27th...

25 years ago, on July 27th, I became a mother.

Tommy became a dad.

What a happy, joyous gift we were given!

Happy Birthday, darling daughter!
We love you, so!


how time flies when you're NOT having fun!

Backstory - Eight years ago, I suffered with Ulcerative Colitis which would not be brought to remission by medical means, and at that time had my diseased colon removed.  I have a permanent ileostomy, which has allowed me a very normal, healthy good quality of life.  The present medical complications are subsequent to that, hence not something that just happens to folks in general.

Not exactly sure, as I have not grabbed a calendar yet, but I've returned home from a nearly 2 week stint at the University Medical Center where in a whirlwind, I have had a small bowel obstruction, subsequent surgery and another few days before being dispatched home to recover, in anticipation of a minimally invasive surgical repair of the hernia which caused the above-mentioned malfunction.

I also spent some time on the oncology ward (due to there being no available beds on the surgical service) and a good number of days in the cardiac/surgical ward, thanks to an unexplained elevated heart rate.


However, I am grateful to God, who has kept me safe through it all.
I am grateful for an experienced surgical team, steadfast nursing care and technological advancements in all matters medical.

While I'll admit to more than one round with discouragement, I'm grateful for my husband's sweet insight that last year, at this time, we were fighting a losing round with cancer in his dad and that this is, indeed, something that will heal with treatment, care and time.  His perspective often straightens my path for me, when it is hard to see ahead on my own.

I am blessed by my daughter, who is now a physician, who's knowledge was assuring and who's daughterly devotion was so tender and so precious to me. Her care and attention were exactly as I needed... not too much and always there in the moment that I called.

I am blessed by my new son in law, who can search out more types of cinnamon flavored gum than anyone else on earth... to be sure.

My boys, who kept the home 'fires' burning, tending animals and farm and each other, myself and their father, are growing into men of such grace.

For every friend and every church family member who called and came, who sent a card and said a prayer, for gifts of every thoughtful kind, I am so thankful.  I yet covet prayers for healing and for the surgery to come to be successful, so that I may get back to normal after a time.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Random summer pinkness...

Wow!  The heat is tremendous! Heat index soaring to over a hundred by midday.

Just the day for raspberry lemonade

and a hot pink explosion by the front door...

Not pink, but summer's winged messenger, light as air...

Pond lilies, abandoned by the little green frogs when they hear you coming...

Hydrangeas...the quintessential summer flower

And also not pink, but too adorable not to share... this little guy is in the yard every late afternoon..

Cute, huh?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Miss Rose's Gullah Gumbo

On the coast of South Carolina, out of Beaufort proper, way out Highway 21 on St. Helena Island, sits Bradley's Seafood.  I have been buying my shrimp at Bradley's for the last 17 years.  Way back when I found them first, we were in the process of building a home down there and having a baby.  There's nothing quite like building a house and a wee little lad  at the same time... nothing like it, I tell you~!

Mr Bradley was still taking the boat out daily. For those of you with children the ages of mine, you may remember a "Nick' show called "Gullah Gullah Island".  Mr. Bradley was the shrimper who took the tv show family out shrimping!

Mrs. Bradley always met me with a smile and served me up the nicest shrimp at the best prices, always with a bit of conversation and beautiful smiles.  I'll swear, these folks would have been the poster people for South Carolina's  Friendly places, smiling faces campaign.

Anyway, getting to the point.. I've had several people inquire as to a good recipe for gumbo... low country, gullah style gumbo.  When I sent folks off down there for R & R, I tell them of the wonderful little stand at Barefoot Farms that sells the gumbo by the quart.  You always know you're on the island when the 'We Island" folks gumbo hits your tummy.

My, how I digress...

In early May, we did girl's weekend at the beach, in advance of the wedding, and while I was in at Bradley's picking up my 4 pounds of shrimp, I asked Rose (Mrs. Bradley's niece) why in the world didn't my gumbo taste exactly like the gumbo I purchase down there.  I explained to her that I consider myself a good cook (ok, a fanatical cook who will pursue a recipe/technique until I have wrestled it into submission).
I assured her that I have tried every printed version in the local cookbooks and a number of wannabe's.

She smiled... a big, beautiful grin and I just jumped right on into the pot (so to speak).

Actually, I begged and plead with Rose to share the secret.  She looked pleased and happy to tell me what the secrets were.  Actually, she demurred a bit, as she handed me the brown paper bag, so that I could write the recipe down!

First, Rose said, you gotta put a lotta meat... a lotta, lotta meat, cause menfolk like it that way.

(Well, yes, clearly, here is a woman who aims to please!)

At this point, Rose made me tell her what I do when I make gumbo, then the big smile came again and she said " You know, you have to use pork neck... smoked and fresh"  and then you'll have it."

Ahhhh..... there you have it.

Gullah Gumbo  by way of Rose and Bradley's Seafood, St Helena Island, SC

This recipe is the way I cook, and assumes an understanding of cooking basics plus a little bit.
I'll be happy to explain anything that is not evident.  Also assumes that you will let your taste buds be your guide on this adventure and will adjust amounts accordingly.  Cooking in general is not that difficult and it's very, very hard to mess up while making gumbo.

Stew a good portion of smoked pork neck, and a good portion of fresh pork neck and a chicken, until all the meat is falling off the bones.  (A goodly portion depends on how many you are feeding... in my case 1 1/2 pounds apiece on the pork neck and a good 4 1/2 pound chicken) This fits in my 8 quart dutch oven nicely.  Depending on when you wanta eat, you're gonna start 12 hours hence.  You're gonna season this meat mixture with salt, pepper and two nice big bay leaves... don't leave out the bay leaves.  De-fat your broth, as you're gonna use it in the gumbo.

Somewhere in here, you brown out the Andouille sausage... 1/2 pound, cut up fine and another pound sliced up in 1/2 inch slices.
Traditional gullah expertise does not brown out the sausage, but tosses it in, as is, later.  The grease adds flavor that I'm willing to fore go in the interest of all cardiac patients in my family.

When your meat is done and picked off the bones, you're gonna make a roux (in a big old pan, unless you like to wash a bunch of different dishes). Just before you make a roux, and in the same pan, you need to cook until wilted and soft, in a bit of oil  2 big onions, chopped, 2 ribs of celery, chopped and a big bell pepper.  At the end throw in several cloves of chopped garlic.   For the roux, use butter or oil (I use olive oil) and flour (about a half cup each makes a good sized roux for this size sort of gumbo).  If you don't know how to make a roux, leave a comment and we'll have a lesson on that... or you just need to come over here and let me show you and let you taste it... as that is far easier  (and you can smell the proceedings)!

When your roux is the proper shade of brown, you're going to add some of the meat cooking broth and stir it till it's smooth, then add your boneless pork meats, and chicken. Dump in the sausage.  Dump in the vegetables, 2 to 3 cups of chopped tomatoes (canned diced tomatoes will work out of season), 2 cups of sliced okra and simmer this until everything looks and tastes right (upwards of an hour).Add broth until everything is swimming nicely.  If you do not have enough broth, you may use some water, but will need to season extra to cover that.  (Ironically, one day, at the We Island stand, while buying a quart of gumbo, I saw the guy chuck a good half jar of V8 juice in there, so when I have to add liquid and don't have broth, I'll admit to doing the same).  Season with thyme and crushed red pepper to taste.

10 minutes or so before serving, toss in the shrimp.  Continue to simmer until the shrimp is pink.

Serve this over rice, in a big bowl... with iced tea.

Nothing else is required.

shopping list: Amounts vary by how many you're cooking for. 
Andouille sausage
Smoked pork neck
Fresh pork neck
Chicken, whole
Fresh Garlic, onion, celery, bell pepper, tomatoes and okra,
fresh thyme, bay leaves, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper
flour and oil for roux
Long grain rice to serve the gumbo over.

Monday, July 5, 2010


All of my children are river children.... The two who came as summer babies were in the river within a month of their birth.  The little girl child, who seldom slept, would be placed in the bottom of the canoe, on a pallet made of blankets, and she's be asleep in mere minutes. The water rocked her and we rested, in the canoe, in the sunshine, on the water.
The middle child was born in the earliest of spring, so his first excursions were simply walks to sit in the sunshine, while his sister caught tadpoles.
The youngest one really didn't get much 'baby' time.  He was happy to rock along with the family schedule and so, strapped to someone, he made the trip early and often.

From those days to now, there has been a certainty that my children will go to the river.  They've learned to swim there, and fished there, canoed and kayaked there.  They've sat and talked to their parents there, and their friends.

Sometimes, we float... which means you get an innertube and you toss teenagers in, and promise them that you'll pick them up later, downstream.

Today was one of those days.  Cool on the water, lazy summer afternoon... nothing else to do.

Savoring those days before school starts again, for their senior year.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Queen Anne's Lace always reminds me that it's summer.  As a little girl, we'd pick a large bouquet and put it in a vase with water and a few drops of food coloring... The color uptakes into the flower and you can have pink and green and blue.. it was always one of summer's trademarks... a vase of  lace on the kitchen table.

Equally white and airy... a full line of whites. Admittedly, this line followed a two week stint at camps for the boy... which netted him numerous new shirts.  These will come in handy very shortly, when band camp starts and white shirts are both required and helpful in fending off the heat and sun of the long, hot days of setting drill.

Candy lillies... and their beautiful little freckles... never cease to amaze me and scream 'summer' in bright and cheerful hues.

Please ignore the weeds, and focus... focus on those beautiful, heavy, early summer fruits!

Juvenile barred rocks... not a great shot, but they're at a skittish phase.  A promise of fall and winter layers and table birds,  a summer 'right of passage' on the homestead.

Figs, on a bush fairly loaded... if we can just get to them before the ants!~  One of the distractors when you practice organic growing is that sometimes, the insects share more than you're inclined to agree with.  The natural sweetness of the figs is such a summer bonus, for the ants and humans alike.

Love that black and white theme the big chicks have going.  Love to go into their coop and gather the eggs, and watch them, on their 'time out' plunder the pastures for bugs and treats.

A reminder to find and order up some heirloom apple trees... we need to replant a few so that a few years down the road, we have more of these, at various times of year.  With fruit trees, the planning is actually a 5 year or so thing and a promise of hope for the future.

Blooming mint... cool in iced tea... fragrant on a late summer evening and a feast for pollinators.

Tadpoles, in the warmer shallows, busy growing so that they can join the night chorus by late summer.

 Late afternoon, cool and calm down by the river, under the cover of old growth trees, with the night noises beginning to pick up and the fish biting.


An invitation from a kid, who is now a man, to join him on the bank.  Quiet time with nature and time to reflect on growing things and growing children and growing older.  Thinking of a time when he was in diapers and toddled about the sandbar, chasing frogs and his sister.  Reflecting on his right of passage to being male... night fishing with the men... and how proud he was to be big enough to be allowed to go.  Seeing the peace and calm that this brings him even now, when his world, most days, is in a city that bustles with movement and sound.  Praying that being grounded always brings him 'home' and settles his heart when he needs it to.  Hoping that precious summer evenings, his life long, bring him home to the river and grounds him in the same way that it does his mother.

Reminding you to slow it down for summer, take the time to accept that invitation, or extend an invitation to share the season before the next one rolls around.