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Garden Morsels

Come in! Sit down. I'll put on some Edith Piaf, and we can talk! I just came in from the back garden. Let's chop up some basil for the pizza. Let's also gather some pineapple sage, stir it into a pitcher of water. Let's have summer dinner.

   Food is helping me get through summer, the roughest part of the year for me. Because while it is so hot, and the bugs are so bad, the garden is also going crazy--- and its a paradise of whatever you'd like to eat. It's all ready and all fresh. Pass the olive oil!

   Since I confided to you last week about my weakness for French living, music, food and all that lovely Frenchy stuff (especially inspired by this blog and its accompanying podcast), I've been trying to be more mindful about life and food and my day.

  My granny asked me the other day if I loved to cook. I supposed I like it, if I'm in the mood--- but what I really love is eating. And since this winter I've been trying to be smarter about what I'm eating-- eating fresh real things, and reaping the health benefits from that (since the end of january, I'm hovering around about a 30 pound weight loss, and I think I'm the better for it in many aspects of my life)

  However, my favorite times to cook seem to be during the colder months, when things feel cozy. In the summer, I seem to lose all inspiration. But the books I've been reading-- especially In A French Kitchen--- have really inspired me to try new things and to realize that cooking amazing things doesnt have to be complicated. The dish above is a few chicken breasts with green beans, red bell pepper, asparagus, a jar of olive mix from World Market (the Italian blend, don't tell the French!) and a good drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper.

  Then I made a small amount of paste with a mix of pesto (also from World Market...I am currently pretty obsessed with that place), heated a baguette in the oven and voila, dinner!

  The interesting thing about this dinner is....you could basically do the same thing every night, but it would always be a different meal depending on the meat and veggies you chose. That is the beauty of old fashioned cooking--- even the medieval pottage soup that people would eat for each meal in the 'really old, olden days.' They just literally through in what was growing, butchered or available at the time, and it constantly changed due to what they had on hand. So while the method of cooking remained the same, the contents of the meal was always changing. Perhaps we modern folks forget that we also have that option--- and that we dont have to eat the same old standard meals with the same ingredients every month, all year.

    So that is what is on my mind a lot these days ;) Trying to look for simple, good things. Even when the world seems hard and dark and out of control, I have learned that there are some things I can control....and things I can do for my family to bring them a little bit of joy. Sometimes I have to protect my heart and mind, and a favorite way to do that is a walk through the garden...

   Look at the little faces of the zenias, peek in at the squash that are about ready to come in and be eaten, being pleasantly surprised by the little humming bird that didnt even notice me standing there, and sampled all the flowers around me.

  I will soak this in, and bring it out again through painting, and pass it on to you. Sometimes it seems silly that a paint brush, or a nice dinner, might do any good in this world. But its one step in many, I think. If I take care of myself, I am able to go out into the world and be more kind and compassionate. If I make things that make feel people feel rested, inspired or closer to their faith, I think that is very good too.

  So lets go out-- and spread joy one little smile or painting or morsel at a time. Please remember to take care of yourself, too. If you are not nurtured, you have nothing with which you can nurture others.

Ah, and one more thing! A little gift I promised, right? Last post I shared that I would select a giveaway winner for my print, The Bee Keeper's Garden! The winner for this giveaway is....


Who entered by replying through my newsletter. Congrats to you, Lucy! Hope you love your new little print :D

And in closing, I remind you---
Take Joy.

Til next time,

Summer Flowers & Busy Bees + a GIVEAWAY!

   Greetings from the steamy prairie! If these photos look slightly ghostly, its because my camera kept steaming up as I tried to take photos. It is hot and it is swampy out there! But the garden sure looks good, doesn't it? In that 'about to turn into a jungle' sort of way....

   The roses are totally done....the cabbage and kale are monsters, the lettuce has literally gone to seed. But the zenias are up and looking marvelous, as are the sunflowers. The birdhouse gourds are thriving and climbing up the little chapel, and I've got squash and eggplant going, almost ready to pick. This is summer!

  The bees are very busy too, and I love to go out and watch them work (they're the only ones motivated to work in this dripping heat!) There are big bumble bees that love the sun flowers, but I love seeing all the little bees flying around too, and I hope that some of them belong to my neighbor's hive. I need to remember to take my spoonful of honey a day to help allergies, because what's more local than honey made from blooms in your own yard? I'd say nothin!

   The sunflowers are going crazy too, and I love seeing their sunny little (and big) faces reaching for the sky. There is something so wild and magnificent about sunflowers, bobbing in the breeze and following the light of the sun. I'll have to save some of these seeds and feed the birdies the rest. I must always have the sunflowers, since they're my mama's favorite flowers--- and the bees too, of course!

   And now that we've turned the calendar page over to the month of July there is no escaping it-- it is SUMMER. And since I'm always game for a treat, I thought it would be fun to do something special-- something garden and something bee inspired!

  So--- I'm going to have a little giveaway here on my blog! All you have to do is comment on this post and you can win an 8x10" copy of my painting "The Bee Keeper's Garden", shown below:

   This piece was so fun to make, and inspired by a brambly, riotous cottage garden--- and my love of bees! There's a wonderful article just out in the latest issue of British Country Living (June issue, but we Americans are just getting it here) all about bees and how important they are to our ecosystem. They do so much, and they're little powerhouses! Humans have been enjoying honey for many centures as well, and they do such good for our gardens and environment.

   Over the last few years, I've been trying to be a 'bee friendly' gardener and planting flowers they'll like and providing shelter and water. We've got a terribly overgrown patch in our yard but I'm going to say 'oh, that's bee shelter!' lol! They can take refuge there. We dont spray our yard and have let the lawn go wild with what we'll call 'native flora.' We also have a 'bug house', which is a little wooden structure we have attached to the siding of the studio and it has little places where a variety of (good) insects can live, including mason bees.

   Mason bees are unique because they like to lay their eggs and take refuge in holes they find-- they arent able to make them themselves. So This little house has rows of pieces of bamboo. The mother mason bee lays and egg, leaves it some food, and then plasters the 'cell' closed with mud. She'll do it again and again until she fill the length of the tube. When the babies hatch, they'll eat the food their mama left them, then burrow our. They are some of the first pollinators of spring as well, and so important for our spring blooming fruit trees. There are even sites out there where you can order a hive of mason bees to go in your mason bee house! So you have ready pollinators when the growing season comes, how fancy is that?

   However, as much as I love the bees, I dont want to touch the bees, so I am happy to buy honey from my neighbor up the street. On Saturday he had a booth set up at our town Famer's Market and I was so happy to buy from him (you can see his honey bear in the pic above!) Some other neighbors were also selling lavender products and I bought a nice little bouquet I've got hanging in my kitchen window, and I also got a jar full of dried organic Bay Leaves.

   Bay leaves are always called for in some of the old homey recipes for soups and stews and baking and I always think "where in the world am I gonna get a bay leaf?" well now, I have a whole jar! They also make me think of Tasha Tudor and her famous Bay tree that she was so proud of...and I was able to see when I toured her home 3 years ago!

  Well, I should sign off for now, but please dont forget to enter the print contest! If you'd like your own pretty little bee keeper, this is your chance! :D And if you're a bit like me with no patience, please know that I have prints in my etsy shop read to go out!

  I am also putting the finishing touches on my newsletter and would love to send it to you as well. It is mostly a homey little letter that I send to you, my kindred spirits, about once a month-- usually with a treat enclosed. You can sign up for the newsletter HERE and please know your information is always private and never shared. And I love being able to send you a little something extra!

  Well, have a wonderful day! I hope your world is full of loveliness and bloom. And may you always--

Take Joy,