crazy summer

My age is catching up with me. Arthritis has really cramped my style this year, and I’ve been going to doctor appointments, it seems, at least three times a week. I had my first MRI (on a hip), and a full body set of x-rays. Gahhh. Where’s a “Med” when you need one? The healer-empath who can pretty much just take a look at you and know exactly what needs to be fixed?

Seriously, I don’t mind slacking off on the garden this year so much (mostly because I am too sore to use tools) but I was looking forward to canning and having a right thumb and wrist that can’t grab and hold stuff in order to chop, twist, wring, lift, grab…etc. very well doesn’t help matters.

But I guess I will just do what I can! Little steps.

Spring again…

After a winter hibernation I’m finally emerging, like the dandelion, from a long winter’s nap. Thinking about gardening. Thinking about canning. Thinking about writing. So much to do, to think about. The good news is that the entire JTN series is now available in paperback. Yay! And I am working on two follow-up novels, a prequel and a sequel. I’m afraid over the next few weeks, though, I’m going to be running to various doctor appointments. Unfortunately, there’s no Med here on earth who can all but figure out what’s making me hurt before he even puts his hands on me. Ah, well. In any case, it’s great to have the windows open, hear the wind chimes singing in the breeze, the tapping of woodpeckers, the calls of the owls at night. I try to ignore the other sounds (not so successfully), the constant noise of traffic, the annoying whine of small engines running shop-vacs or lawn equipment. Fighting off a spring bout of some virus or another, so maybe that makes me more sensitive. But I’ll update again soon!

The SFR Romance Brigade Presents: Discovery – A Far Out Romance (SF/Romance)

An excerpt from Discovery, A Far Out Romance

Another growl, and she shook again. More water flew and he ducked.

The fine, short hairs stood out now at angles all over her body. She resembled an angry, wet kitten. One very angry wet kitten. One that emitted sparks. Real sparks that hissed and crackled. If not for the acute discomfort on her face, he would have laughed.

Of course he realized what was happening. Water conducted electricity, her body produced electricity, and he was Earth’s greatest idiot for not thinking about that a bit earlier. Wincing, he imagined what intense static charges all over one’s body must feel like. Forget that tiny snap your fingers got after crossing a woolen carpet and touching metal. She was experiencing heavy duty shocking. Miniature sheet lightning popped out all over her body. Ouch!

And she tried to tell me. She really had. He hadn’t listened or bothered trying to understand why she hadn’t been thrilled with the idea of bathing with water. He just assumed she, like most humans, would appreciate the luxury of a hot shower with soap and shampoo, especially after sleeping in the woods and running for their lives. Stupid. Really stupid. Guilt smacked him hard in the gut.

He’d proceeded to get her completely soaked and lathered, not letting the building tingles warn him. Instead, he’d gotten lost in the pleasurable aspects those small shocks produced, along with the tactile pleasures of laving her wet, sleek body with slippery lather. He sought comfort in knowing that for a while she’d enjoyed it too.

But now—

He pushed his damp hair from his eyes and shook his head. “She liked everything else. Go figure. I get the alien with the ‘Dry Clean Only’ tag. What an idiot I am!”

Now she stood there, angry, the damp air surrounding her thrumming with electricity. It had to hurt. And nothing grounded her. Through his bare feet he started to feel the shocks that rammed through her damp form with every beat of her pulse.

“I better ask for more towels,” he said, feeling discretion was the better part of valor at that point. He grabbed the clean clothing before the shirt and sweats became soaked like the rest of the room. “I’ll leave these right outside.”

* * * * *

DISCOVERY – A Far Out Romance is available as an ebook from Amazon, Kobo, BN, and iTunes and right now is on sale for 99 cents  (or the equivalent of the US dollar value in other countries.)  It is also available in paperback from the usual online retailers.

First bite of summer…

First tomato of 2013 from the Back 40, an Amish Paste

There is something holy and immensely satisfying about eating the first tomato of the season. I picked it after I took its picture. Put it in my pocket (I wear really loose jeans to garden, I carry tools, twine, quick connect ends for the hoses, everything in my pockets, so there’s also room for a tomato and a zucchini or two, as well.) Got in in the house and was going to wait for Sharon to come home so I could share the ritual with her.

So, I washed the two little cabbages and chard leaves I harvested. It was so hot today, 95F, that the chard was wilted just on the way from the back yard to the house and needed to revive in cold water. (It perks up just fine after a few minutes, wrap in a damp towel, stores in fridge for a week or better if you take care of it.) I washed the five zucchinis I picked, not that they needed washing, but mostly to get them chilled down to keep them at the peak of perfection.

All during this activity, the tomato was singing to me: Bite me, taste me, slurp me up while my skin in still warm from the sun and my insides are sweet. It was an Amish Paste tomato, a lot like a classic Roma. Nothing exciting.

Still, temptation won. If there had been more than one ready, I would have stood there in the garden gobbling it up off the vine without bothering to buff it against my T-shirt (which was was soaked with sweat and had bits of grass and dirt on it anyway). It wouldn’t be the same to wait. So, I bit in…ate half. I cut the remaining half in quarters and shared those with my sister when she came home. I’m glad I didn’t wait, because the tomato was still good an hour later, but not as brilliantly good as it was still warm from the scorching heat of today.  Here’s to more first tomatoes as I wait for the firsts of the eight different types I’ve planted!

Swiss Chard: taste the rainbow!

Chard, from Wikimedia Commons, photo by Forest and Kim Starr

I’m finding more and more things to do with the beautiful leafy green that is Swiss Chard, more specifically, the mix of varieties known as “Bright Lights” or “Rainbow” chard. This is a spectacular plant. Unlike many leafy greens, Chard stands up to summer’s heat (at least it has in Minnesota) and will bravely produce masses of gorgeous leaves with beautifully colored stalks and veins from the coolest spring to first frost. (Your experience may vary especially if you live in a very hot location.) You can even grow it in your flower bed, it’s so pretty. Or in the kitchen on the windowsill.

Don’t be afraid to try this green!  If you love spinach, you’re in for a treat. Chard is milder than spinach, often a lot less sandy. If you dread kale or collards because of the tough membranes and stalks—Chard is easy. In my experience, even the biggest leaves don’t get as tough as kale or collards—and you can eat the stalks and membranes. (As a matter of fact, those are Apple’s favorite bits.)  Oh, and did you catch that?  YOU CAN EAT THE STALKS!  Don’t throw them away! I can’t believe I saw a picture of someone’s proud harvest of rainbow chard… where they left the stalks standing naked and alone in the garden! Dice them up. They might need to cook longer than the leaves, but they’re tasty, colorful, and TASTY. And pretty!

Baby chard leaves are welcome in salads, adding an earthy, green note like spinach, but without the tongue-drying aftereffect that spinach sometimes has. One of our favorite ways to eat them: a simple saute. The stalks are diced up and sauteed with onions in a mix of olive oil and butter (or just the oil, or even coconut oil, which will tempt even the most reluctant into trying the greens since it smells divine). Once the stalks and onions are tender, the leaves are rough chopped, just roll them together and whack your chef knife through in about 1 inch or so sections. Toss into the pan with the softened stalks and onions, and cook gently until just wilted. (Note: older, bigger leaves, or those huge, huge leaves you get at the grocery store, might have to cook longer. The leaves I harvest are all between hand-length to twelve inches (not counting the stalks). Add some pepper, maybe even a whiff of cinnamon, a sprinkle of sea salt, and it’s done. Alternatively, for an Asian flair, you can saute in peanut oil and use shoyu, toss in sesame seeds at the end.

Adding grain can make this a complete vegetarian meal. I like to use a mix of white, brown, and wild rice, red and white quinoa, millet, barley, and faro (a variety of wheat. Of course if you can’t have wheat, leave that out!) If you can have wheat—another dynamite combo we had just tonight as a side dish was bulgur wheat with red and white quinoa. I just mixed the sauteed stalks/onions and grains together in the same pot, and then added the chopped greens, and let them steam together for a while before serving.

Chard is also excellent in a quiche or fritatta.  One of the loveliest summer breakfasts I can ever make features lots of chard, bell peppers, onions, and herbs from my garden in scrambles and quiches, or sauteed and served 0ver eggs cooked any way.  (Preferably with a nice big spoonful of my green tomato chutney or home-canned salsa on the side–both of which are  REALLY excellent with eggs.)

One thing I want to try with chard: dolmas. Traditionally, they are made with grape leaves, but I want to try them with chard. I found the tiny dolmas to be perfect snacking food: lemony, minty, spiced grains wrapped in a green leaf, the Middle Eastern version of rice in a seaweed wrapper? In any case, dolmas would be a tasty cold snack to keep on hand and I know at least my sister and I would love them.

I love rainbow chard so much that the vegetable “yellowstem” in my JTN sci fi action series is based on it. (Only yellowstem has the added advantage of a bit of a tangy, citrusy taste.)

Growth and harvest is easy. Chard will even grow in part-sun (I haven’t tried it in shade yet). If possible, bend the chosen stalk away from the plant, flat to the ground–it should break off naturally. Or cut at ground level, being careful not to cut any smaller, interior leaves you might want to grow larger.  When you get the leaves inside, rinse them in cool water, paying attention to the undersides where grit (and maybe a little bug or two) might be clinging. If you’re not going to use them right away, leave the dampness on the leaves and roll them up in a tea towel or some paper towels. They will store for a while. I like to rinse the leaves and re-dampen the towel daily. If they look a little wilty, trim a bit off the stalks if the ends look dried out and completely submerge the entire leaf, stem and all, in some water for a while.  Perkiness should return in an hour or so, at which point you can prep and cook. Leaves can be blanched and frozen, as can the stalks. (Separately from each other works best, since they’ll need different cooking times anyway.)  Just google for Swiss Chard recipes and you’ll find ooodles of them!

To find out more about growing Swiss Chard, visit