Saturday Farmers Market 7/31/10 – Pickles!

It’s WAY too hot down here in New Orleans…entirely too hot to even think…much less to go outside and garden for more than like 2 minutes. Unless you feel like getting a case of the heat stroke. So I thought I’d stay indoors today for this edition of Heather’s Saturday Farmer’s Market and give you a recipe I made today for homemade pickles! This’ll work for Beth Fish’s Weekend Cooking too! I got this recipe from the August/September issue of Organic Gardening – a magazine that I’ve subscribed to and have fallen in love with. This recipe is for Audrey’s Pickles. Here’s what it calls for:

A 2 Quart canning jar or container of any kind, really
1 pound of medium size cucumbers (I found that 2 medium cucumbers were just about 1 pound)
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon of whole mustard seed
1 teaspoon fresh dill weed
1 whole dried bay leaf
2/3 cup brown sugar
6 1/2 Tablespoons White Distilled Vinegar
6 1/2 Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar
3/4 cup of water

Chop up your cucumbers into spears or slices…whichever you’d prefer. I halved my cucumbers, then halved them again, then cut them into thirds, giving me 24 spears. From there, you put the cucumber spears, the garlic (which I chopped into large pieces), peppercorns, mustard seed, dill weed and bay leaf into the container.

In a separate bowl, combine your vinegars and water and stir it well, then simply pour it over your cucumbers in the jar! Give it a really good shake, after you’ve put the lid on the jar of course 😉 That’s it!! No need to go through the canning process or anything. These will stay good for up to three months in the fridge according to the article. And they’re ready to eat in as little as 24 hours from preparation, but let them sit for at least 24 hours to soak up all that goodness. Can’t wait to try them tomorrow!! If you’re worried about them looking pretty, you may want to transfer them to a one quart jar after you’ve shaken them and let them marinade because it only actually takes up about half the jar…but I’m not that worried :p

Even though there are no pictures of the garden, I thought I’d give you a brief update of what’s going on…the okra are producing like CRAZY!!! Okra must like heat. I’ve gotten six okra in the last 2 days, which is a lot for one plant. The jalapenos are starting to produce quite a bit too, and I have three white eggplant growing now! The little baby one from last week is a good size now. The sunflowers are taking off like crazy now. Those things grow quick! I tied up my black eye peas today because they were starting to fall over. And my favorite new little garden critters are the little anole lizard hatchlings 🙂 So very adorable!! They’re eating up some of the bugs in the garden. I keep finding them on the plants and they just make me giggle they’re so cute. Here’s a little guy on my coneflower pot:

That’s it for me this week! How does your garden grow?

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Love's Executioner by Irvin D. Yalom

A few weeks ago, my licensing supervisor for me to become a licensed counselor gave me this book as a late birthday gift. When he gave it to me, he told me that after working with me for a year, he thought that I’d relate a lot to Yalom’s theoretical views as a counselor and would enjoy the book. I read this one slowly and savored it, taking in everything that Yalom has to offer through this book – on a professional, personal and entertainment level. This book is truly one of the best gifts anyone has given me. The sentiment behind it, that anyone could even compare me in the slightest bit to Yalom, is humbling. And the knowledge and the experience of reading it is something I won’t soon forget.

In Love’s Executioner, Yalom gives us an intimate view of his time spent with ten different patients of his throughout his career. In the field of psychology, Irvin Yalom is best known for his theory of existentialism and for his work in group therapy. Personally, I’ve never laid much on theories. I don’t think you can take one particular theory of counseling or humanity and say “yes, this is how everything works and this is the only way to look at things.” And Yalom doesn’t either despite having developed his own theory. It’s what I love about him. But I do certainly appreciate what his theory says. It seems grim at first…it’s basically that we must all accept that death awaits us and that we must make of our lives what we will. That we are ultimately responsible for our own lives…no one else is, we’re ultimately alone in that. Sounds depressing, eh? But accepting that can be quite liberating.

The cases that Yalom describes in Love’s Executioner are so very interesting! In fact, reading them made me excited for my own upcoming therapy sessions. I couldn’t wait to see my next clients. I found myself growing a new love for the field of psychology. Not that there was ever a lack of it to begin with, but Yalom seems to have expanded my desire to understand people more. His cases range from an elderly woman who has put her life on hold for the last ten years due to being in an obsessive form of love with her ex therapist to a man with end stage cancer who treats other’s with disregard; An obese woman who covers her sadness with humor to a mother who shockingly utters in therapy that “the wrong one died” when speaking of one of her children who passed away.

When describing these cases, what warmed my heart more than anything was the relatability factor that Yalom has. First of all, he easily relates to all of his clients. But more than that, he relates to the reader too. As I mentioned, Yalom is very well known in the psychology field, but he is not above saying that he doesn’t have all of the answers. That he’s sometimes lost as to where to go next in a session. That he’s still surprised after doing therapy for years. That he himself has his own issues that he needs help with. I can’t tell you how comforting it was to read this as a counselor who is only 3 years out of graduate school.

Who would I recommend this book to? Anyone and everyone. Fear not, it’s by no means a “psychology textbook”. It’s nothing like that at all. It’s something that can be read and enjoyed by anybody and I think that anyone could get something out of it. In it’s pages are stories that we can all relate to in some way, regardless of which side of the office we’re sitting. Perhaps it changes with each story. There is something to gleam for everyone in this book I’d imagine and I feel rewarded for having read it.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

It’s been a long time since a book has made me physically cringe and has truly horrified me. I don’t get disturbed easily, I don’t get creeped out easily…and it’s not that this book creeped me out, but it was truly horrifying to me. Once scene in particular that will stick with me for a long time. Unwind is a YA dystopian novel written by Neal Shusterman that tackles the subject of abortion and organ harvesting. After a war has been fought over abortion, it’s been decided by the US government that a woman no longer has the freedom to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Abortion is made illegal. In it’s place, three rules are put into action:

1. A child can be left on a doorstep and it is then the person who finds that child’s responsibility to care for it. However, if the mother is caught leaving the child on a doorstep, she must take the child and be responsible for it.

2. At a certain age, a child can be “unwound”. Basically, if a parent does not want there child any longer or if they are a ward of the state, the child is quite literally taken apart while conscious and still alive and all of it’s organs, tissues, blood, etc are used as donor parts.

3. A child may also be unwound as a tithe…think of it as payment to the church or a tax write off.

In the book, we follow three main characters. A young boy raised as a tithe, a young boy who’s family no longer wants him, and a girl who is a ward of the state that can no longer care for her. There’s much more to the plot…much much more, but it’s best left to be discovered by the reader. What I will share with you is that late in the book, there is a scene that shows the unwinding process and I literally caught myself holding my breath, tears forming at my eyes.

This book asks questions that are important and need to be asked now. I don’t mean to get overly political on my blog, but there are things that need to be talked about…when the government takes away the right of a woman to choose what happens to her body and whether or not she chooses to continue a pregnancy, what is put in it’s place? I’m not suggesting that the government would actually turn to harvesting teenagers in farms to deal with overpopulation, but where does that leave us? And what kind of life does that leave for children that are brought into the world who are never wanted? I’m crossing dangerous territory here, I understand that…I’m not by any means excusing irresponsible actions of adults, but when the choice is taken away from a woman it leads to a child that also never has any choices available to them so often.

I don’t know what Neal Shusterman’s intentions were in writing this book…..but he brings up some very interesting topics. Topics of responsibility, topics of governmental control, topics of organ and tissue harvesting, abortion, parental responsibility, our moral responsibility as a society. And he does it all in a book that is so wonderfully written. I really enjoyed this first read by Shusterman and can’t wait to read more of his stuff.

Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim's Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Spoiler Free, I promise!!

Oh Scott, how I will miss thee. This is a hard one to review. I reviewed the first five books in the Scott Pilgrim series in sort of one big lump review a while back and to review this one as a stand alone would sort of blow the ending, so I won’t do that. But this is the end 😦 When I got this book in the mail I was both filled with joy and a little saddened too, knowing that there wouldn’t be anymore Scott Pilgrim books after this one. So I turned the pages as slowly as I could, sucking in every detail of O’Malley’s wonderfully endearing, entertaining, zany and true to form comic.

For a VERY brief explanation of what this series is about, Scott, a 20 something guy with little motivation aside from video games and the occasional band practice, falls for the mysterious and super cool Ramona Flowers. But in order to be with her, he must first defeat her seven even exes. And oh no…lest you think that this is some mech/samurai/anime type thing that you surely won’t like (though I happen to enjoy those things as well :p), it is not. These battles take place in night clubs, city streets, shopping malls and libraries often right after Scott has had conversations with his gay roommate Wallace Wells or band practice with his friends Stephen and Kim for their band Sex Bombomb.

Is this series the deepest most meaningful thing that I’ve ever read? No. Did it bring me to tears on every page and did I learn tons of life lessons from reading it? No. But there is a certain something about this series that I just can’t put my hand on that I love so much. I think it captures, through Scott, that sort of in between place that a lot of twenty somethings find themselves. When Scott isn’t battling Ramona’s exes, he’s really just trying to figure out what the hell he is doing. And I remember that period of my life clear as day. I think I’m still there sometimes. In fact, I know I am. Everyone is giving Scott advice on what to do, where he should live, what he should be, who he should be with. And it seems that everyone else has their stuff together. Knows themselves. Though we eventually learn that that’s not the case. Everyone goes through this.

While I can’t relate EXACTLY to Scott’s experience in this book and to his circle of friends, there are things I can relate to. There’s a feeling I can relate to. On top of that, O’Malley just made me smile on nearly every page. He opens the book with Scott wearing a Smashing Pumpkins shirt and towards the end of the series, we see the same thing. Some things don’t change. There are so many awesome video game references made throughout the whole series. The humor is just top notch. And then there are some gems of touching moments throughout the book as well. True moments of looking inward.

So am I getting sappy over this humorous, light hearted series? Yes I am. Because underneath that humor, O’Malley says a lot. And he gave us characters that I’m really going to miss. A lot.

Saturday Farmer's Market – 7/24/10

I thought I’d do my Saturday Farmer’s Market post a little bit different this week. I’m doing it a bit like I do my bad bloggers posts. So here are a bunch of thumbnails for your viewing pleasure with corresponding commentary below! The commentary is numbered from left to right/top row to bottom row. Click on any picture to make it bigger and to see the full picture. The thumbnails below are just gallery snaps that show parts of the picture, not the whole thing. Would love to see what’s going on in everyone else’s garden too 😀 Head on over to Heather’s blog to sign up for the Saturday Farmer’s Market!!! It’s my new favorite meme 🙂

1. My poor basil. I’ve been trying to grow basil in a pot all summer, but the stupid army worms LOVE it and they’ve been eating it like crazy…so I kept having to cut it back like crazy and it stayed so tiny tiny tiny :p Well now it’s flowering and look how tiny it is!! Oh well, no basil this year. It’s bonsai basil. At least it makes a pretty flower. I’ll save some seed and try again later on in the year.

2. These are the black eye peas that I planted two weeks ago! Not only have they planted their second set of leaves, but they’ve now sprouted a third set and are starting to grow into little plants now. Who knew how well these would do! Just stick some beans (ahem, peas) in the ground and look what happens 😀 Can’t wait to see the actual pea pods start growing, but I have to be patient for that.

3. And lord knows I was patient enough for this! I was watering my garden today and this just made me go “oooooohhhh!!!” It’s a little white eggplant! And it looks like I’ll have bunches more soon. And you know what I think has been helping this plant pollinate? Yep, Herman the wasp. I was so excited when I saw this…I’ve been waiting forever for eggplant. I’ve never had white eggplant before, but I’m looking forward to trying it!

4. My jalapeno plant is looking healthier than ever. It’s a beautiful luscious green now with tons of new growth on it and peppers sprouting like crazy. It’s one of Herman’s favorite plants to hang out in. I’m going to have to try Heather’s bacon wrapped stuffed jalapeno recipe soon!

5. I wanted to include this picture just to show you how big my okra plant is!!! It’s freaking huge!! I’ve said this before, but it’s just my favorite of all of them. Such an awesome plant. It comes up to my neck now when I’m in the garden. And it has such a thick stalk. And this thing started out looking like one of those little lily pad weeds in your backyard. So tiny and puny. I didn’t think it would make it. Isn’t it awesome?

6. Remember that little tiny cute bell pepper from last week? Well looky here! It’s getting bigger! Still the only pepper on the plants though 😦

7. Thought I’d give everyone a peek at my satsuma tree. Here’s one of the two satsumas that’s been growing sooooo very slowly forever now :p They won’t start popping up really until around October/November. That’s citrus season in Louisiana. So these are just rarities. But it’s neat watching this little guy grow!! It’s getting pretty big to the point where I’m waiting for it to turn color soon!

8. My poor little strawberries :p They’re troopers. I cut them back all the way down to their roots thinking they’d just lie dormant, but they’re determined to keep growing! They’ve come back as full plants and now they’re flowering again and trying to make berries. They make these cute flowers first, but of course they can’t make berries. It’s WAY too hot. They turn to jelly before they even have a chance.

9. And finally there’s the sunflower garden! They just got watered before I took this picture. That’s why they’re all lopsided, but damn they’re growing now!! I guess they had to establish themselves, but now that they have, I swear they grow two inches a day!!

Looking forward to what’s in store for the coming week!!

Bad Bloggers on a Friday – 7/23/10

I’ve managed to keep the loot down to only six books this week. And it would’ve only been FOUR books if it weren’t for the two that walked in the house today :p But here’s what came into the house in the last week or so:

1. Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins – I’ve yet to read any of Billy Collins’ poetry, but I’ve heard wonderful things about it. Nancy, the Bookfool, made this one sound just irresistible , so I had to add it to my collection! Hoping to get to it sooner rather than later! Point to Nancy! (Paperback Swap)

2. Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver – Just because it’s Barbara Kingsolver and the lady who I got the above book from had it in her PBS inventory…so I got this one from her too 🙂 (Paperback swap)

3. Wild Roses by Deb Caletti – Another one that reminds me of Amanda’s trip down here in New Orleans…I love these covers to Caletti’s books because they remind me of that trip. And so Amanda gets a point for this one too! (Paperback Swap)

4. A Mango Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – I’m so excited about this one!!! Nancy reviewed this one recently too and it’s a book all about a young girl who meets a young boy and they both have synesthesia…something I’ve always been really interested in! Another point for Nancy. (Paperback Swap)

5. Veracity by Laura Bynum – And yet ANOTHER point for Nancy! You really racked up this week! I don’t remember much about this book except really wanting to read it after she reviewed it. And that it was post apocalyptic maybe? (Paperback Swap)

6. Scott Pilgrim Vol. 6: Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour by Bryan Lee O’Malley – This is my most prized possession of the week 😀 I’m a bit melancholy about this book but I guarantee you I’ll have it read (for the first time) within the next hour. It’s the last installment of the Scott Pilgrim comic series and I’ve had it pre-ordered since the day I could pre-order it. I just love this series so damn much and I’m so sad to see the last book released but so excited at the same time. (Bought it)

The Sunday Salon – On Lazy Sundays

I’ve noticed quite a few bloggers coming back to The Sunday Salon today!! So I decided I’d revisit this old friend as well. I haven’t done a Sunday Salon post in quite sometime. And what better thing to post about than just the goings on of a lazy Sunday on exactly that :p The heat down here in New Orleans has just rained down exhaustion on me. If you look back on my blog in prior years, I tend to just disappear pretty much completely around this time of the year, reemerging sometime around late August…but I haven’t done that this year! I think I know why and it has to do with my garden.

It’s kept my spirits up, it’s given me a bit of daily happiness. I can’t sing the praises of having a vegetable garden enough. Sometimes I’m not entirely unconvinced that I don’t have a uterus. I want a child so bad, but that’s not in my near future unless I decide to adopt at this point. So my garden gives me something to care for and to tend and it just generally makes me happy. I read an article about this in Urban Farm and gardening really has been shown to make people more happy. There’s a number of psychologists now who do a type of therapy called ecopsychotherapy that engages people with nature, gardening included. I’ve suggested gardening to a couple of my clients, but they’re still at the phase where they’re a little too “manly” for that :/ Hopefully we can eventually break down some of those barriers.

But anyway, that’s a very good thing! I certainly have heat related depression, and this summer with the way my migraines have been, mixed with a very stressful work situation and just a lot of chaos in my own head, I’m glad that I’m making it through without falling into that funk! Oh, and more good news, I’ve managed to make it through today without a headache!

Reading continues to be somewhat of a slump. I still just have too many books going at once. Right now I’m down to three. I just can’t help starting another one whenever I finish one!! Still reading Love’s Executioner by Yalom, and I added two more to the mix. The first is a young adult dystopian book that I’m loving called Unwind by Neal Shusterman. It’s basically about a future where abortion has been made illegal, but parents have the choice to “unwind” their children at a certain age where the kid is basically broken down and their parts are given to other people who need them. Lots to be discussed there! Also reading Coop by Michael Perry and it’s just such a wonderful book!! About a man and his family trying to start a farm, but it’s so much more than that. It’s really about him as a father, as a husband and just as him.

And finally, I made the most delicious apple cake today!! It’s Beth Fish’s recipe from her Weekend Cooking post yesterday 😀 It’s perfectly moist, not overly sweet, and fluffy as can be! And the apples are deeeeeelicious! Here’s a pic. And head over to her blog for the recipe!