Category Archives: Summer

Time to Reflect

I have taken the summer off. I’ve biked, hiked, knitted, hassled, fretted, sweated, gardened and napped.

Now the harvest is coming in hot and heavy and soon I’ll be putting food aside for the winter (already have lots and lots of applesauce, raspberries and rhubarb in the freezer for morning oatmeal), and I’m eager to get back to writing.

I recently wrote about the value of lying fallow. This has been a good time for me. For certain, I still write, but what I’m writing has more to do with posts and blogs and copy for Wordcrafters’ variety of literary events. I now need to get back to my personal work.

So this morning, I tallied what I have that is incomplete, but still holds my heart. This exercise was both gratifying and horrifying.

  • Four novels – first drafts complete, awaiting rewrites.
  • Three novels – first drafts in process.
  • Two novels – outlined and ready to go.
  • Four nonfiction books in various states of completion.
  • I also deleted a few fits and starts that no longer interest me.

When I decided to take a few months off, I was convinced that I had exhausted my creativity, that I really didn’t have anything new to say. Today, I look at my list and I am excited to prioritize and get busy, mostly because I have a whole batch of new ideas popping up in my head every day. Clearly, however, I need to finish something before starting something new.

I participated in NaNoWriMo last year (National Novel Writing Month – Write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days), and that was not only great fun, but it helped move forward a project that had been languishing. I only wish I had come to it better prepared, as I ended up with a very messy first draft. My first drafts are usually untidy, but not this ugly. So this November, I will work on one that I have already outlined. Between now and then, I intend to complete one of the novels awaiting rewrites.

My self-imposed hiatus lasts until mid-September.

I wonder if I can wait that long to get started.


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Filed under My New Novel, National Novel Writing Month, Possibilities, Summer, Writing

Summer Red Cabbage Delight

Potlucks are wonderful things. Especially so if you find a recipe that you cannot live without. This one, from my spinning friend Darlene, is so simple that it’ll be a regular at our dinner table (and the pot lucks I attend) from here on out.

The best part? For the first time in years, I grew red cabbage in the garden, and I see that one is ready to harvest.

Darlene’s Outrageous Red Cabbage

For every 2 cups of cut up cabbage (bite size, not shredded), put in a large frying pan: 1 Tbl oil, 2 Tbl water, 2 Tbl brown sugar, 2 Tbl vinegar.  When liquid is boiling, Add cabbage and a chopped up (bite size pieces) apple, salt to taste.  Let it cook until done, 8-10 minutes or so. Serve warm.

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Filed under Gardening, Summer

Edna’s Fabulous Zucchini Relish

Okay, so I went out to look at the zucchini plants — way too many zukes this year — and found a ball bat. I try to keep up with them, but it seems like I turn around twice and there’s a five pound zucchini out there. What to do? Make relish.

This recipe came from my dear grandmother, Edna Gutzmer. It’s a sweet pickle relish, using zucchini instead of cucumbers. Please share it.

Edna’s Fabulous Zucchini Relish

10 cups zucchini

4 cups onion

Grind together (I shred it with the Cuisinart) and let stand in the refrigerator overnight with 1 cup of salt. In the morning, rinse with cold water and squeeze out excess.


2-1/4 cups cider vinegar

4 cups sugar

2 Tablespoons celery seed

2 Heaping Tablespoons mustard seed

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 large green peppers, chopped

and 1 teaspoon each of nutmeg, turmeric, and cornstarch

Simmer for 30 minutes

Pack hot into sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2″ head space, process in a hot water bath for ten minutes. Will make 6-8 pints.

Or… pack into half pints and give them away as Christmas gifts!

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Filed under Summer

The Best Zucchini Bread

I’m a gardener, so I grow zucchini. Lots of it.  More than we can eat, and I have lots of zucchini recipes, but I’ve never found the consummate zucchini bread recipe until now. This one is good. This one may be the best ever. I may stop searching.

It comes from Rockford, Illinois, and is the generously-shared, blue-ribbon-winning recipe of Britt-Marie Knoblock.

To be fair, I did not include the pecans, and I used olive oil instead of canola or other vegetable oil. The rest is as written.

Zucchini bread

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups zucchini, shredded
1 cup chopped pecans

Directions: In a bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, applesauce, eggs and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, powder, salt and soda. Mix well.

Add the orange juice mixture; stir until just combined. Fold in the zucchini and pecans. Pour the batter into two 8-inch by 4-inch by 2-inch loaf pans coated with nonstick cooking spray.

Bake at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Enjoy the zucchini season!

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Filed under Gardening, Summer

Biking Safety and Cell Phones

Let me begin by saying that I am guilty of talking on the cell phone while driving.

No more.

In all the thousands of miles I’ve put on my bicycles over the years, the only real close calls I’ve had have been due to my own stupidity. I’ve ridden against traffic, surprising drivers with my unexpected presence; I’ve ridden at night without lights; I’ve dodged in and out of traffic at  my own great peril. But I’ve learned not to do those things. I’ve aged and mellowed, and now am quite a safe bicyclist. I’m glad I am still here to report this.

But I’ve had three close calls in the last two days, and I mean close calls. Each time I have been vigilant (which is why I’m here to write this) and each time I have been obeying proper biking protocol. What do these three near-misses have in common? You guessed. In each case, the driver was talking on her cell phone.

The ability to multi-task is a great one. But it’s not for driving. Driving is for paying attention to all the unexpected things that come your way, like drivers and bikers who are doing the unexpected thing. When you’re on your cell phone, your concentration is fragmented. I was almost taken out by three SUVs with phone-talking women at the wheel in the last two days, and let me tell you, that is an event to make you pee your pants.

What if I, or some other cyclist, was now in the hospital on life support because you were making your nail appointment on the run? I’m begging you not to take that chance.

When I’m in the car, my phone is off.

Please do the same.


Filed under Bicycle, Summer

Ahhh. A summer’s dream

I read an entire book the other day. I read “Sister Noon” by Karen Joy Fowler. It was an incredible book, unputdownable, if you know what I mean.  I’ve been a big fan of Karen’s since I first read “Sarah Canary,” and that book still resonates. Karen is a master wordsmith.

But to take the time to read an entire book in a day is to hearken back to that summer between seventh and eighth grades. I alluded to that odd summer a few days ago, when talking about the biking summer between sixth and seventh grades. The summer between seventh and eighth was when I fell in love with reading. Fiction caught me in its trap and I have been ecstatic about being its prisoner ever since.

That summer I spent entirely in my swimming suit (don’t ask me why). I would wake up in the morning, and with both parents gone to work, I would get up, brush my teeth and then go back to bed and read. I slept with a pile of library books, and when I finished each one in the stack, I put them in the basket of my trusty bike and went back to the library for another pile.

That summer I devoured everything I could find by H.G. Wells, everything by Edgar Rice Burroughs including all the Tarzan Books, the Pellucidar series, and some of the Mars books, everything I could find by Heinlein, Serling, and Ian Fleming, and then became magically transported to the dark side of Edgar Allan Poe.

It was an incredible summer. I read every possible waking moment. With no one to nag me about taking out the garbage or “go outside, it’s a beautiful day,” I had the luxury of feeding my soul.

Perhaps that summer has taken on some mythical aspects in my memory. Perhaps it wasn’t precisely as I remember it, but that’s okay. What I do know is that I read all those books in those short months, and that I have never been the same since.

Would that every child had such an opportunity.


Filed under Reading, Summer

Taking the Summer off

Taking the summer off seemed to be such a great idea back when I was overextended. In reality, it’s not so great.

I’m not bored — probably if there ever was a sin, boredom is it — but I don’t have enough to do. I’ve been reading, and gardening, and watching too much television, making jobs for Al to do around the house, poking my nose in affairs that aren’t mine… I’m eager to get into a project, but now it’s too late to take on anything large, as we’re going to be traveling the first half of September, and then it’s just a stone’s throw to school starting, work starting, and I begin teaching a new class on Writing for Veterans at LCC.

But whatever I thought this summer of leisure would be like isn’t it.  I’ll remember this next year.

I need to keep busy, or I’ll get myself into trouble.

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Filed under Gardening, Summer

My Summer Kitchen

My kitchen is a mess in the summer. Always. The floor has bits of dried leaves and things that all three of us (husband, dog, me) track in from the garden, the countertop always has some dirt-filled things, like garlic drying or onions. Right now there is a bowl of raspberries left over from breakfast, to be snacked on until they’re gone (before lunch).  Soon, I hope, the perpetual bowl of tomatoes will be there.

We live as much outside as inside during the summer, and while my winter kitchen is spotless and everything is in its place, the summer kitchen tends to be a riot of seeds,  plants, and rooting cuttings, compost for the worm bin and on and on and on.  Sometimes it bugs me, and I get busy, cleaning, cleaning, but the next day it’s back to its normal summer state. And I guess I’m growing to love it.

When the tomatoes are over, the pickles are in the pantry, the rest of the produce in the freezer, my kitchen will again be clean and ready for the winter. And then I’ll miss the chaos, and I’ll miss my summer kitchen.

Meanwhile, I’m kind of enjoying the mess.

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Filed under Gardening, Summer

What a summer

I’ve been a practicum student at Serenity Lane this summer, a drug and alcohol treatment facility in town, working with the chaplain as she ministers to the spirits of the patients. What an education that has been! Yikes. I see myself in so many of them — their eyes, their stories, their fears, their shame. I identify and empathize, and yet I know the other side of that misery as well. If only they will stick with it, if only they could glimpse what I know to be true about a clean and sober life…

If only that insecure but talented writer could keep the faith and keep putting the butt in the chair and keep pumping out the words. If only they could glimpse what I know about successes as a writer…

If only that young married couple could stick it out, reach deep and find the reasons they were attracted to each other in the beginning, and rekindle that respect for each other. If only they could glimpse what I know about the sublime pleasure in a long satisfying marriage…

These are the pleasures of age.

I am one of the extraordinarily fortunate ones, and I am grateful every second of every minute. The question now is how to share the knowledge in a meaningful way. Other than walking the talk–which I try to do, and accomplish with varying levels of success–that is the current quest.

But more will be revealed, if I suit up and show up, and that’s what I’m doing.

What a summer.

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Filed under Aging, family, Joy, Marriage, Spirituality, Summer, Writing, years

Summer’s end

It’s too cold to go barefoot these days.  I’ve been pulling long-sleeved blouses and light sweaters from the “winter clothes” closet and know that soon I’ll be switching over, putting the summer clothes away for the season. Except for some cherry tomatoes, two cabbages, one lone cucumber still on its trellis and the fall raspberries, the garden is over.  It’s been a good one this year. I’ll put the pumpkin on the front porch for Halloween before I make a pie out of it.

I love winter in the Pacific Northwest. I love the rain, the cold, the bare trees, the fog, the onslaught of gardening catalogs.

Normally, I look forward to each turn of season. I love spring–of course, doesn’t everyone? But for some reason, this year I’m reluctant to put summer away in its closet. This year I’m feeling a little melancholy, as if I didn’t partake of summer enough. Instead of thinking of all the fun things I did, I seem to be dwelling on the things I didn’t have time to do.

Hmmm. Change that to “things I didn’t take the time to do.”

My life was as full–to overflowing, as always–this summer as it always is. I didn’t bike enough. I didn’t hike enough. I didn’t fish enough, and though I did all of those things, as I get older, time compresses, and I can see that I should have done more of them, because I love doing those things.

I did other things that I love, though, and more of them. I spent a lot of time in the garden, and it was glorious. I raised chickens and got a dog. I wrote a lot, sold a book, some essays and some short stories, taught a few classes, finished a degree, spent quality time with cherished friends and family.

In all, I did life well this summer.

But did I do summer?

I see that I could have done summer better. So now that fall is upon us, I vow to do fall very well, and winter after that. And next summer, if I’m fortunate enough to be on the right side of the dirt when it shows up, I’ll do it very well indeed.

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Filed under Summer, time