So: one year later

Why hello, 47! It’s been exactly one year since I’ve written last. So, happy birthday to me! And also to my friends Sylvia and Steve who share this auspicious day with me.

Funny thing: Sylvia and Steve are also writers. Hopefully 2015 was better for them than it was for me. For me, it wasn’t the best year for writing anything other than cards, letters, the occasional silly verse, and of course, work-related copy.

Writers’ block wasn’t the trouble.

Nor was time.

Nor topics.

It was tenacity.

Fear was my excuse. Fear that I wasn’t writing anything interesting. Fear that I was repeating myself. Fear that my stories weren’t worth telling. Fear that my opinions were too polarizing. Or not polarizing enough. One fear after another. Building, building, building. Until it seemed easier just to forget about it. Do something else. Move on. Forget about it.

But then, in the early part of 2016 the signs started coming. A kick-in-the-pants blog post here. Some passing comments about missing my posts. An inspirational article there. And finally this post which makes a pretty cool point about fear a lot more eloquently than I do.

So, my gift to myself today on my 47th birthday is to live life with more joie de vivre and less fear. Before I decided to put myself out there with this promise/threat/vow/whatever you want to call it, know that I’ve been practicing for the past few months and you know what they say about making things a habit. You need to do them consistently. It’s worked for a bunch of other stuff in my life so it’s gotta work for my writing. Because if I don’t use it, I might lose it, right?

Well then, now that all that’s out there, rather than spend any additional characters looking back on the lack of well-crafted sentences, pithy comments, and tales of garden pests, I’ll share a non-comprehensive and certainly not all-inclusive list of the things I’m looking forward to in this 47th year:

-hearing that my mom’s hip replacement surgery went well today
-attempting the steps to each dance in my ZUMBA class tonight
-seeing which of the Gs is going to be tonight’s Downton Abbey marathon lap dog
-reading even more than I did last year
-continuing to work towards better health and fitness
-getting the spring plants in the ground and laying sod (another once again!) this weekend
-painting walls and cabinets a bright white
-spending time with an eclectic and inspiring mix of friends and family
-being inspired by the unexpected, the generous, and the kind
-writing whatever I want

Until next time,
xo Julie

PS: I’m trying to convince an artistic friend of mine to make me a little fear chair to put on whatever table/desk/sofa I’m using for my writing desk du jour. Portable so it could come to work! Even travel with me wherever I go! I think he could make a killing on Etsy. There’s got to be more of us out there who are doubting the talents that make us the happiest and need a visible reminder to hang out with us and give fear a place to sit. What do you think? Would you want one?

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No mud. No lotus. It’s been one of my favorite thoughts for the past few months.

 

So: happy 46

Today was my 46th birthday. And I don’t mind if you or anyone else knows. I’m glad to be 46. I can’t believe it’s been that long! Neither can my mom–she said so in my birthday card.

It was an amazing day. I loved hearing from far-flung friends. Lots of surprises and sweetness. Phone calls and texts. Lovely cards and thoughtful presents. Flowers. David Bowie and iTunes. Plane tickets for summer vacation. A relaxing evening that was supposed to be spent at the gym but instead was spent on the patio with Bruce, overlooking the urban farm and discussing my latest addition to the plan: growing blueberries.

 It would be nice to have more homegrown fruit!  Peach blossoms are a go in 2015.

2015 so far has been a year of refocusing. Last week was the week of getting long put off doctors’ appointments done. And getting back to the gym. And soreness! That’s ok–it makes me feel alive. 

The urban farm is looking springy and green. 

   

Even the little container tomatoes are doing well:  

 

But what I’m most excited about is the fig tree:  

 

It’s spreading and there are lots of shoots. Stay tuned for more photos. Or follow me on Instagram (@julie_petroski) for my random garden shots.

One more thing. Back by popular demand: the gratuitous dog photo! Gidget is our funniest sleeper.

So: hello, again

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I’m back, apparently by popular demand. Thank you, friends (you know who you are) and Bruce, for nagging, I mean, encouraging me to get back to it and start writing things down again.

Truthfully, I haven’t felt much like writing. I’ve had to do a lot lately for work and it’s been hard. Not because I’ve forgotten how or the specific assignments and projects. Definitely, not that. I’ve liked the challenge and the pace. It reminds me of what I love about advertising—the variety, the challenges, the solutions. It makes me feel alive, excited, and energized.

It’s just that I’ve been a little afraid of what’s going to come out. And when.

This winter has been one of the hardest I’ve had in a very long time. An early frost threatened to shut down the entire Mortroski Midcentury Urban Farm’s winter production. We’ve purchased way more produce this winter than I intended. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s and their organic produce selection and prices.

Once I got everything up and running again, we had February and March ice storms. Ice and snow days where I worked from home and the roads were horrible. Luckily the huge live oak that’s been another winter problem (plumbing) came through with insulating leaves that, along with the frost cloths, kept the young radish, beet, kale, lettuce, bok choi, collard green, mustard green, and chard sprouts alive. So there’s the garden. It looks ugly and neglected, yet it seems to have turned a corner now that the snow has melted and turned to rain. It’s waiting for the sprouts to thrive and mulch to keep it all alive.

There’s a silver lining to everything, right? That’s what I try to tell myself. When something bad happens, something good’s around the corner. A door closes and another opens.

The silver lining to the plumbing problem? An awesome and thoroughly modern outflow to the city sewer. Never again worrying about running the washing machine and the dishwasher at the same time. No more plumbing enzymes and emergency unclogging. Truthfully, I am relieved that once and for all the Mortroski Mid-Century’s plumbing issues are done. While I like Jim the 70-something plumber a whole lot and enjoy chatting about gardening with him, I hope I don’t see him for while.

Another thing happened this winter: my grandmother died in December. She was just one week short of her 100th birthday. She had some kind of massive event that left her breathing and just barely alive when she was found. She never recovered from it. To say I was looking forward to her birthday would be a massive understatement. I had plans! I had surprises! I had so much I wanted to celebrate with her! I had been looking forward to it for a really long time! We were going to have fun!

When I found out what had happened, I was devastated. As Bruce wisely pointed out one night in January when I was wallowing in my sadness, I was only thinking about myself, not her, with all of my planning. Would she have appreciated the letters and cards from all over the place? Maybe. Would she have rather I showed up more often to visit her? Definitely.

Yes, I feel guilty. And very stupid for assuming that a woman who was over 99 and very tenacious would be around to see her 100th birthday surrounded by family and friends at a big party. But she’s been part of my life for the past 45+ years? Why should that change?

Because it did. She reached her expiration date and, unfortunately, her frequently repeated remark of “I may not make it to 100” came true. I just thought she was bluffing. I haven’t dealt with it very well, I’m afraid. But I’ve been trying. I know, I know, she lived a good long life. But selfishly, I hoped for one last hurrah.

The silver lining? The lesson? I am trying really hard to really live in the moment. To connect with the people in my life. To really listen. To realize that it might be the last time. To be as kind as I can be.

My grandmother’s house was the only home that has been in my life for my entire life time. My family moved a lot when I was growing up and Bruce and I’ve done a great job of carrying on the family tradition. My grandparents’ house was a lovely brick ranch bungalow built in the 1960s. It was always so clean and well-cared for. And it maintained a lot of its 1960s charm. Interior brick walls. The planter/bookcase next to the front door. Slate tiles. The pink bathroom fixtures and formica countertop with the sputnik pattern. The red power room sink. I’m sure subconsciously it influenced the purchase of our midcentury, which was built around the same time with a similar private area layout.

So when it came time to clean out her house, I didn’t really want to let go. I took worn quilts. I took an afghan in 1970s brown and orange. I took a gravy boat. I took glassware. I took games I played as a kid. I took random things, hoping that surrounding myself with them could bring me comfort.

Even this morning as I mixed up pancake batter for breakfast, I thought of her. It wasn’t even her recipe from the back of the yellow Bisquick box. She made Bisquick pancakes with King syrup for us as kids and it always made her—and us—happy to have pancakes together. In her later years, my brother took over when he visited, making pancakes for her. I always thought that was such a sweet gesture. It’s amazing how a food memory can affect you. Then, I poured orange juice into 1960s style flowered jam jar glasses that I took from her kitchen. I don’t know the whole story behind them, but I wish I did. She gave me 4 others when I was in my 30s and admired them. I now have a set of 6, two red, two yellow, two green. I wash them by hand.

There’s been a lot of death this winter. First, Grandma. Then, Bruce’s uncle. Older people who have both lived long and productive lives. Then came the one just over a week ago that slapped me hard in the face, reminding me that life is a precious gift. My college friend, a mother of 4 young adults, just a tiny bit older than me. She was put to rest yesterday. Hundreds of people attended her rosary and funeral in California. There is no doubt she was loved. She was someone who lit up a room. Someone who was always kind. Someone who helped others. An amazing volunteer. But there is also no doubt of the unfairness of such a vibrant life ending soon. What might have been. Her daughter’s wedding. Her sons’ graduations.

So, I’ve tried to spare you the sadness and the self-indulgent posts where “so” not “sow” or even the always rare “sew” is the focus. Writing nothing if I can’t talk about the plants and the extreme Texas weather or the funny things the Gs do (today, they all had baths and they are finally not completely pissed off at their humans) seemed like the better course of action.

But I’ve really had enough. I’m tired of keeping what I’m thinking and feeling to myself. So this is a fair warning then: it may crop up as the year progresses. Writing is the way I have always dealt with everything, especially emotions, education, earning money, and ignoring that fact has really put a crimp in my style. That’s why you’re getting this long-ass post. Bruce has checked on my several times, since I’ve been banging on this laptop for a while now.

For the last several month I’ve felt rather stuck. I tried doing other stuff. My photography skills are improving, but still, there were days even posting garden photos on Instagram (@julie_petroski) felt hard. I’ve made a lot of soup. Distracted myself with recipes that sounded good. Tried to get zen with dishwashing and household chores.

Even making my usual elaborate to-do lists that I’ve made since college seemed too hard. It’s been hard to think about more than one day at a time. So, better to do nothing and relax, right? Wrong. It’s been unnatural and exhausting. Rather than feeling refreshed and calm as I had hoped, I feel like a bag of knots. And unnaturally tired. My dreams have been strange. Multitasking has been hard. Chores have been neglected. I’ve been losing and misplacing stuff from my silly Invisalign braces to computer parts to favorite pens. I’m thinking it is all a big hint from the universe that I need to get my head back in the game.

Today, the clocks sprung forward. On the 21st, spring will be here. It feels a bit like it’s time to move on. Besides, there are four raised beds and three stock tanks full of little sprouts that you’ll want to hear about.

Thank you for your patience. It’s time to get back to oversharing.

So: the journey begins

Like many people in the US, we’re packed and ready to go. We’re joining the crowds at one of the busiest airports in the country and on the craziest travel day in the US, we’re off…to Toronto. Yes, the American-Canadian and the Canadian-American are off to the Great White North to celebrate US Thanksgiving.

We’ve got three big pieces of checked luggage, crammed full of various household essentials that we are repatriating to Canada. We’ve got our UK adventure backpacks. We’ve got toques, mitts, snow pants, winter coats, and snow boots. We were informed at check in that we could have brought three 75 lb bags each because we got bumped to the front of the plane. This is more stuff than we’ve ever traveled with, but good to know for future reference, I suppose. Kind of crazy if you ask me, but I guess it makes sense if you’re moving or going on a very long trip and you want to hedge your bets in the wardrobe department.

We’re headed to The Owl House for the long weekend. And I may be skipping a blog post since we may not have wifi until Friday.

Here’s a taste of the solitude taken in October:.

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We’ve already planned our next trip: Christmas with the Gs. We’re road-tripping that time. You know it will be an adventure!

So speaking of the Gs, here’s your gratuitous holiday dog photo of the day, taken in December 2013:

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Happy Thanksgiving!

So: I love mail

How do you feel when you open your mailbox? A little sick, thinking of bills or letters riddled with guilt or people asking for money? Or are you hopeful and excited thinking about all the fun stuff that could be there?

I love getting the mail. I always have. If I get home from work first, I look forward to walking down the sidewalk in front of our house to our little red mailbox. If I don’t get home first, I bug Bruce saying “Did we get anything good?” Good to me means a lot of stuff other than bills and political flyers (thank goodness that’s over). Good could mean a card or letter from a far away friend. A magazine. A pile of flyers from the grocery stores. A surprise package. Some photos in an envelope. Stickers. Free samples. Some online shopping.

This week, I have been loving mail even more than ever. For my grandmother’s 100th birthday, I nominated her to receive greetings from MoreLoveLetters.com. I’ve been writing love letters for them for a while now and I thought how fun it would be for her to receive a big pile of love notes in the middle of winter. Here are a few examples of what we’ve gotten:

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They want the nominators to gather up all the letters into “bundle” and present them. So it’s my job to open each letter and read them. And I have. I read them out loud to Bruce. Grandma has gotten letters from all over the place. Kids have drawn her pictures and made her cards. Other seniors have written her heartfelt letters in beautifully loopy script. Caligraphers have lettered cards for her. Surly teenagers have written letters filled with sweet and meaningful words. Men, women, children, they’ve all poured their hearts out and written words that will certainly uplift a centenarian.

It’s been a lovely experience picking up the mail every day. And despite the images on the television that tell me otherwise, those letters and cards tell me that there are tons of wonderful people out there. They know that even with one single letter they can make a difference in someone else’s life. These aren’t random acts of kindness. They are purposeful. They are determined. They are filled with love. I can feel it.

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George! photo by Bruce

Speaking of filled with love, or maybe that’s just sleep in this photo, here’s your gratuitous dog photo of the day:

so: milestone time

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2014 is a big year for milestone birthdays in my life. Tonight we went to a friend’s surprise 40th birthday party. He thought he was having dinner with his wife, kids, parents and sister, but instead he had all sorts of friends yelling “Happy Birthday!” when he walked into the room at the pub. It was a good surprise.

Closer to home, Bruce is having a very big birthday in just a little over a week. His big birthday wish was to attend the 80s music weekend Rewind Festival in Macclesfield in the northern part of England back in August. Don’t worry, I’ll share more about our UK adventure on the birthday boy’s big day.

But the biggest of all the milestones about to happen is my dear grandmother’s birthday. Lillian’s going to be 100 on Christmas Eve. Everyone in her family is doing little things to make her birthday more special (as if you could make the anniversary of being on this big blue marble for a century more special). People are flying in from all over. There are several parties planned. Grandma’s got her outfits all picked out. She’s ready for this big day to happen.

I’ve been bugging politicians, movie stars, authors, singers, friends, all sorts of people to send her a birthday wish. Since I started in October, Grandma’s been getting wishes galore already. A good thing since she loves mail almost as much as I do.

Today’s gratuitious dog photo of the day shows how inseparable the newest Gs are:

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So: grateful gratitude

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Thank you for all of the nice feedback on yesterday’s post. I hope you all have seen the results of your kindness, your helpfulness, and your generosity today. Reading so many people’s responses and knowing that so many people shared the post with their friends, family and followers, certainly made me feel more hopeful. Here’s a secret: when I spread a little kindness, I think I get more out of it than the person or people that are the receivers! And that’s why, no matter how craptastical the day is, I try to make it better for someone else.

Yes, it’s a little selfish. Maybe that’s why it doesn’t always work. Some days I’m just in a funk or inside my own head. Or too damn busy. But for the last year or so I’ve deliberately tried to be a kinder me, even when I don’t feel like it.

I’ve also forced myself to be deliberately grateful.

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My beautiful gratitude journal made by my very talented friend Mary-Claire

In an effort to stay positive and focused on all the good that’s happening, I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since the beginning of September and each day, I take a few moments to write down 10 reasons I am grateful. It was another one of my experiments like planting tomatillos or trying a complicated recipe. At first it felt a little silly and forced. But I made myself do it. Two months later, I actually like it. It reminds me of how much is going right, even when so much sounds like it’s going wrong. I track the lovely and nice things people do for me every day. I track the people who make my days better. I track the “tools” that make life better for me. Mostly, I track the things that mean something. If you’re in that kind of funk at the present moment or the “eating season” holidays make you feel blue, why not try it?

So much good happens everyday. But it’s like the comments and reviews on sites like Yelp, Amazon or even GlassDoor: it’s easier to point out the defects, problems and challenges. The things that went wrong—or at least not to your liking. Good is always our expectation. But when you don’t capture it, the good things become a tucked away memory that’s difficult to dredge up when you need it. You might already know that but I’m grateful that I figured that out for myself.

One last thing: I am also very grateful that the weekend is here. It’s time for a little down time. Maybe you’re going to kick back and relax a little like today’s gratuitous dogs of the day:

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Gidget and George enjoy snuggling while they watch tv • photo by Bruce

So: only ten?!?!

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I keep getting tagged on Facebook (thanks, fellow book lovers, Stuart and Sheree!) to share the ten books that have made the biggest impact in my life. This started happening right before I went on vacation a few weeks ago and until now, I haven’t had the bandwidth to address to this mind-blowing ask.

Mind-blowing because I have been reading forever—and there are a lot of books that have impacted me. No joke since my mom was a teacher and taught me how to read before I was in pre-school, probably so I would amuse myself while she looked after my two years younger brother. Instead of napping (which I hated), I’d head to my room to read. And stay there for hours. No one ever had to encourage me to go to the library. Teachers never had to prod me to challenge myself—I read what I liked and looking back on it read books I probably didn’t fully understand when I was in elementary school.

But in the past 8 years, I’ve gotten out of the habit. Reading social media posts, blogs, snippets of information, and magazines have replaced the books in my life. TV too. It’s easy to keep looking at screens after looking at them all day. And that’s why I decided to abandon my iPad. Although I love the convenience of having lots of reading material at my disposal, those books and magazines are languishing behind the glass. I forget that they’re there.

A BIG thank you to my sweet friend Melissa for giving me the book Carry On, Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life (perhaps a hint, but a nice read regardless) because it really and truly was the catalyst to reigniting my passion for reading earlier this summer. And reminding me just how much I really loved to hold a real book in my hands.

Then I read two books (Mad World: An Oral History of New Wave Artists and Songs That Defined the 1980s and Divergent) during my vacation and they applied a swift blow to my noggin with the long-lost steel-toed Doc Martins of my youth. “How could you have forgotten us? We’ve been friends for most of your life? We will not be replaced!” they said, speaking on behalf of the shelves of their brethren I’ve plowed through and cast aside. So now it’s back to paper for me.

I’m frequently mocked for being a fast reader. Truth is I’m a reading glutton. If I love a book, it’s a deliciously gooey and decadent feast. No matter how much I get through, I can’t get enough. I will devour that book—sleep, chores, whatever, be damned. If I don’t love it, I know myself well enough that it needs to be donated to charity immediately. Or returned to the library. Or left in an airplane seat pocket. Otherwise, it will languish on a dusty bookshelf until we move to another dwelling.

Yes, my name is Julie and I’m addicted to reading. Now that you know another of my dirty little secrets, you’ll understand why I’m reading more again. It’s a great vice for a middle-aged writer. And it won’t make me fat or put a hurting on the bank account.

Without further ado, here are 10 books I love that influenced my thoughts, perspective on many things, and writing. Admittedly I am cheating just a wee bit with the excesses presented in my list. And my list could change tomorrow once I ponder what I’ve forgotten, but today’s 10 are a certainly a diverse and motley crew:

1. Ogilvy on Advertising: Without a doubt, this is the book that made me realize that advertising was the right career for me. I was given it as a first day of work assignment by my first “adult job” boss and I polished it off in a couple of hours. Then I re-read it. And thought to myself, “One day, I want to work for this guy.” I never got that wish, but many years later, I worked at the place with his name on the door.

2. Neuromancer by William Gibson. Yes, I love sci-fi. And dystopian fiction. And all of William Gibson’s books. Nerd!

3. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Canadian content that I didn’t realize was Canadian when I read it back in high school. And more dystopian fiction.

4. Anything by Dr. Seuss. I’m a big fan

5. The Bobbsey Twins entire series/Hardy Boys entire series/Nancy Drew entire series. And I am thrilled that my three little nieces will get to enjoy the ones my mom squirreled away in a box in her garage (they were hers too!) in a few more years.

6. The Little House on the Prairie series.

7. Lord of the Rings series (If it’s not obvious yet that I really, really, really like books that come in series, you may need to know that I also loved the Twilight series and all the Harry Potter books, although not the movies. Also all of the Shopaholic books and anything by Sophie Kinsella. Truthfully, I don’t really like the stories to end and the characters to leave me.)

8. The Diary of a Young Girl. It gave a face to something completely incomprehensible to me. Another book I’ve read many times.

9. The Catcher in the Rye. Yes, I could be a moody teen. I loved all of Salinger’s works and really do hope that he left us a manuscript.

10. tie: The Riverside Shakespeare and New Oxford Annotated Bible. Both of these books were critical to my undergraduate degree in English and what I learned in the classes where I used them has proven to be extremely useful in adult life for a whole variety of reasons.

And if you’re wondering if my book choices are similar to others, here’s a cool infographic.

If you’ve been missing the gratuitous dog photos because I’ve been too busy reading/gardening/working/vacationing/a whole bunch of things I’ll catch you up on later, don’t worry, here’s a cute one:

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George snuggling with Guinness during a thunderstorm

 

PS: In the past few weeks I’ve been reading whole novels in one sitting. Real books, not on my iPad. I’m thinking I’d better renew my library card. I seem to be loving young adult novels: Tuesday night’s was The Fault in Our Stars and I plowed through Divergent on our flight back from London. Both were exactly what I needed to relax and enjoy some time well spent.

So: understanding gifts

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My cousin Ann passed away on July 23 just a month after being diagnosed with cancer. We never lived near enough to each other to hang out a lot and our 10-year age difference probably wouldn’t have made us best buds as kids, even though she always made a point to spend time with me when our family visited hers. Maybe that’s because in addition to sharing the same middle name, we have many similarities, including being what some people call “free spirits.”

Ann spent her life caring for and supporting others as a nurse and also as a laughter yoga instructor. She was a very spiritual person, mediated daily, and built a labyrinth on her property with the help of many friends. S In my adult life, I really enjoyed our email correspondence. And I will treasure the memories of her visit to Toronto with her husband and son. She will be deeply missed by all of the people whose lives she touched.

Today her family is holding a celebration of her life and while I can’t be with her family and friends in person, I will be remembering her today. Hopefully I’ll get a lot of laughs in because that’s what she’d want.

I shared the poem that follows with her son and husband.

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Understanding the gift

Laughing high school student babysitting
An enthusiastic 5 year old.

Laughing working woman mentoring
An angst-filled high school student.

Laughing vacationer reminding
A jaded worker what’s really important

You always included me.
You always invited me.
You always laughed for me.
Because you always loved me.
Even though we were so far apart.

I could feel your laughs
Through your emails
And funny notes.

I could see your laughs
When you shared your dreams
In all their wild glories.

But I only understood your laughs
Once I really thought about them

They were breaths of kindness.
Sounds of compassion.
Exclamations of love.
All verbal embraces.
Freely given.

Precious gifts bestowed on many.
To make them rich beyond their wildest dreams
Not in their wallets!
In the place where it really matters.
The place where love resides.

Your laughter forced hearts open wider
Teacher, we’ll pay it forward.
And whenever we hear our own laughter,
We’ll feel your voice.

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From Ann’s obituary: “Her motto: “Fear less and be fearless ” teachs us it will be okay. Live well, laugh often, “Namaste”.”

We would all be well served to follow her words.

 

So: eating okra

I’m not from around these parts, so plenty of people find it very humorous that I grow okra. Usually these native Texans tell me how much they hate okra, how it’s yucky and slimy. Maybe their moms or grandmas made them eat it, but I never ate it regularly as a kid. My grandmother put it in one of her soups and I always thought it was pretty cool since it looks a bit like a flower, but since I didn’t see my grandparents all that often, it wasn’t on the normal vegetable rotation. Still I always scoured my bowl looking for the “flowers.” She probably thought it was pretty funny that I liked it so much.

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how okra grows

Bruce definitely NEVER ate okra until we moved to Texas, at least not knowingly. In Toronto, I don’t remember ever seeing it in the grocery store except in the frozen section. And while it probably grows in California, my mom never bought it.

So here we are in a climate where it’s super hot and dry. Okra likes both of those things as does Malabar spinach, peppers of all kinds, tomatillos, and black eyed peas.Can you tell  I like being a successful gardener (remember my tomato despair)? That’s why we’re eating what grows locally. Just a few okra plants will produce several meals worth per week for two hungry adults until the killing frost comes in November. Nothing is fresher than heading out to the urban farm and picking what’s for dinner right before dinner!

We’ve already had a couple of okra meals in the past two weeks. In North Texas, most people will fry their okra. A few pickle it—I love pickled okra but it’s still too early in the season to do it. You need volume and that won’t really come until August or September. Some people now roast it or even grill okra. All four of those ways are very good, but since we’re of the age where you shouldn’t consume much fried stuff, fried’s not really on our table.

Here’s how we usually eat it:

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Sauté some chopped onions and a jalapeño or any pepper you have on hand in your favorite olive oil (I use a garlic one from Trader Joe’s).

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Chop up some okra into rounds and add to your skillet.

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Let the okra start roasting, then add some frozen corn (or fresh if you have it). 

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Add a can of diced tomatoes (or fresh if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where you have nice big tomatoes) and let the whole thing cook down for a few minutes.

Now you could season it all up with hot sauce, salt and pepper and pour it over rice or pasta or quinoa and eat it as is, but we usually throw in some fish and have a one-pot meal. I’m also going to try it with chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans) this summer.

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This is thawed frozen cod. I just put it on top and let it cook until done. No flipping necessary. I’ve also used tilapia and other white fish.

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The finished product served over a quinoa/rice mixture! See all the little flowers? Add hot sauce if you like — I usually do.

An easy-peasy delicious weeknight dinner that we’ll enjoy many times over the months to come. Let me know if you try it and what special touches you put on it. If I have cilantro, sometimes I add that. Or I use salsa instead of canned tomatoes. The main thing is if you are afraid of slimy okra, do something like this and cook it with something acidic like tomatoes. There’s no sliminess at all, just deliciousness. You can make it with frozen okra too—I freeze our okra whole, then thaw and slice when I’m ready to use it.

Today’s gratuitous dog photo:

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Guinness and George are snuggling together a lot more these days. Not sure what has brought this on, but Guinness doesn’t seem to mind at all. Photo by Christine Watson.