Tuesday, July 24, 2007


What's so exciting about an artichoke, you may ask. Well, when they're going in a flower pot on my patio in New England it's very exciting.

Last summer I came across a local nursery with artichoke plants for sale so I added 2 to my vegetable garden, but no chokes were ever borne. I attempted to transplant them into pots to bring indoors but they weren't in the least bit happy. Maybe because they were sitting right above a space heater?

This year I came across them again and just had to give it another shot. But this time, knowing they need lots of room to grow, and probably much better soil, I put them in my patio pots, with marigolds for good measure in case of another failure. Well lo and behold this past weekend we have not one, but two chokes on one plant! The other plant is just beginning to produce a tiny choke that should be in full view in a few days.

I'm looking forward to boiling and eating these with the best butter I can find. And afterward I'll do my best to save the plants for next year, as according to the California Artichoke Board, plants will continue to produce dozens of artichokes for up to 7 years.

Summer in New England means lobster! Make that LOTS of lobster! These 2 critters were picked up in Kittery, Maine at the Seaview Lobster Company (a brief 30 minute drive from our house) for a very cheap price. By lobster standards that is.

When Roger and I moved up here, I seriously thought lobster could be bought for prices similar to chicken. But that’s not the case. Due to an abundant crop this year (over-sexed lobsters maybe?), the prices have dropped. These 2 beauts we bought at $7 a pound, and they usually would have been $11 a pound. But still, multiply that by their weight – 5 lbs total – that’s still quite the chunk of change out the pocket book.

Unfortunately, the guy who sold us our dinner, though as incredibly young and handsome as he is, with his mouth shut – is missing several teeth! So I feel it’s my duty as a New Englander to buy more lobsters so maybe this guy can afford to go to the dentist.

We’ve learned quite a bit about lobsters in the time we’ve been up here. One, you can go scuba diving for lobsters. We haven’t done this ourselves, but that’s how friends who own a boat have been known to spend their summers. Two, I can make a mean lobster chowder – southern style! Cajun spices and Tabasco make all the difference in the world.

Third, and most important, don’t even think you can just move to Maine and start up your own lobster business – you will not make it. Not because there aren’t enough lobsters per se, but unless you’re born into the business, or have had long-standing ties to a lobstering community – your traps will be sabotaged. That’s pretty much a guarantee.

Not to completely disparage Mainers, but I also read not long after moving here about a couple who moved north and started an orchard business. Seemed harmless enough to me, but for some reason the neighbors burned down the orchard – apparently because they weren’t locals and they had the nerve to try to start a business. These people not only refused to move, they also replanted their orchards. I hope they’re still there, but it’s certainly quite a hill to climb.

Overall though, our experiences with Maine have been very pleasant, though they are very much their own people, but then again, they know we’re spending our money in Maine, then heading back home to Massachusetts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

The above bible verse was provided by my cousin, Steve Garrett, in 2002 for a compilation of memories provided by all 17 Garrett cousins of our grandparent’s home in Amarillo, Texas. This verse strikes a chord in me today, as not only a testament to how he lived his own life, raising 4 daughters, but the values that were instilled in all of us that truly beckon back to generations of Garretts and Johnsons raising families. We were all far from perfect, but we always had the strong values built on Christian faith to get us through difficult times, whether the hard times were a result of our own actions, or simply dealing with what life throws at everyone.

In looking around at my relatives, I believe most of us married into families that were a direct reflection of our own families. Afterall, what were the odds of me finding a man who knew, not only what Wahoo is, but also played on homemade Wahoo boards?

At age 51, on July 20th, 2007, Steve lost his battle with ALS, probably better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The following was taken from his obituary and I wanted to pass this along:

“…Stevie Ray, stepped out of this life and into the presence of the Lord. There he received a crown of righteousness and is now dancing before the Lord in his new body, which is no longer incapacitated by the Lou GehrigĂ­s disease he fought so courageously for the past three years.”

Some of you have dealt directly with your own immediate familty members who have had ALS and can provide a first-hand account of how truly horrible the disease is. Steve was always vibrant and a very strong, physical person and when diagnosed with ALS, he and his wife booked a trip to the Holy Land to truly walk in the steps of Jesus.

In addition to ALS, there are so many conditions today that are in need of money to help aid in the discovery of cures. I know we all give in our own ways, but I wanted to point out a website, Charity Navigator, which provides data on hundreds, or maybe thousands of charities, detailing what percentage of monies donated is actually used for the intended purpose. Their list runs the gamut of health, environment and education, just to name a few. So if you’re leery of donating to a foundation, please check out their website for more information.

And in the meantime, may be peace and goodness dwell in the hearts of the immediate family Steve left behind.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Foray Into Fiction

So for several years now I've wanted to attempt writing a book. Inspired by my grandmother's life as a child and teenager, my intended original project (a "roman a clef", fiction based on fact) has been pushed to the back of my mind for instead a completely different project.

Either way, what little I've written only emphasizes how truly difficult it is to put onto paper, what's going round in your head. And that's just the words! Now imagine trying to remember grammar lessons that were much less interesting than the the cute guy sitting in front of me in class, with his curly, blonde hair and bulging 16-year-old biceps. Sorry, I've seemed to have gotten off track just a bit!

Back to grammer - FOCUS - just today I learned from a New Hampshire Rock Station of all places, that you use "a" if the word following begins with a consonant. Alternatively you use "an" if the following word begins with a vowel. Who knew?!?! Probably most of you, but it was completely lost on me. Oh well, so if I ever do get published, I'll have one over-worked editor correcting all my errors!

But in reality, what's stopping me from really writing either story are two concerns. The first, plagarism, be it actual sentences, characters, tone, you name it! I'm terrified that if I'm reading a dime-store novel, while creating my masterpiece, that suddenly my project has morphed into another author's already published piece of work.

My second fear, and my biggest, is what will people think? Will they think I've lost my mind when reading what I've created, or will they think I'm writing about my own experiences guised in a fictional character? Bottom line - what will people think?!?! This fear I will have to find a way to get over on my own, as the first fear is more easily avoided as I find my own voice over the next couple of years.

For now, both projects are on hold until I put more practice into the simple act of writing. I've created a 2nd blog frontseatfiction.blogspot.com where I'll be posting stories, the first of which was posted today "Miss April Showers". This initial short story may become a serial novel which I hope will help me in developing characters.

In my mind, I'm this fabulous writer (ala Joan Wilder in "Romancing the Stone") who has been approached by Kellogg's - yes the cereal company, because they want to publish my serial novel(s) inside boxes of "Special K", wrapped in that crinkly cellophane of course! Imagine, a new chapter available to muse over every 4 weeks or so while you eat your breakfast.

But in the meantime, slide on over and read "Miss April Showers".