The road less traveled–recently

I discovered this scene in Zion National Park at the golden hour of sunset. What is special to me are the leaves scattered in the path. It appears that the route, although well-traveled in the past, hasn’t seen much action recently.

That, for me, makes it irresistible. What fun, to discover something of value that others may have ignored!

The earth seemed to move with me.
I found a new source of power and beauty,
a source I never knew existed.

~Sir Roger Bannister,
first person to run a four-minute mile~

Accepting the inevitable

T-P the house

Can you just sense the sinuous curl in the paper as it drifts from the trees?

It was breezy the day I took this picture, (and no, I was neither participant nor recipient!) and I shared for a moment in the feeling of exuberance the streamers portrayed.

Then I thought about what I’d do if this were my house. Those trees are tall and there is no way I’d be climbing a tall ladder in the windy weather to retrieve the strands. I could pull on the rolls, but I am sure they would obligingly break at the nearest perforation–that’s how they are designed.

I could find the kids that did it, and persuade them not to ever, ever do it again. I could wait for my own teenagers to grow up so they wouldn’t encourage it.

OR, I could just laugh and wave as cars drove past.

We’ve all been there, in moments we’d rather forget and can’t undo, and wished we were a million miles away from, and aren’t. Sometimes the only thing to do is accept the situation–and pray for rain!

~Each day brings its own gifts.~
~Marcus Aurelius~

 

 

 

Half and half

fall leaves with snow

Wouldn’t it be nice if nature presented us seasons like the calendar does: On this day Fall begins. On this day, Winter arrives.

But it doesn’t happen that way, of course. Some days she feels like warm weather and zephyr breezes. On others, she pouts behind fog and rain.

And on some days she refuses to make up her mind and splits the difference!

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
~Rumi~

The tale of Elizabeth the washerwoman and the blue Hubbard squash

Blue Hubbard Squash–the size of a young turkey!

This past growing season I’ve had the rewarding opportunity to be part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) run by Deb Lentz and her husband Richard Andres called Tantre Farm. This Michigan farm has been totally organic since 1993 and produces the most amazing food!

As part of our last share of the extended season, Deb set out some blue Hubbard squash for us to try.

These boogers can run up to 40 pounds, but the one I selected ran about eight. Still a challenge. Because the outer shell is hard and brittle, Deb suggested I roast it first at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes to soften it so that it could be broken into manageable pieces and de-seeded.

This I did, but even after the baking, other than making a small nick in the neck of the squash with my big knife, nothing was happening. That squash wasn’t budging!

So I took it outside, raised it above my head, and smashed it on the cement driveway:

Squashed squash, after landing on cement driveway

Voila! A broken squash. Very satisfying. Not hard to break into pieces at all, at this point.

Then I had to take out the innards. The size of the squash is misleading, because unlike a butternut squash, it has a big inner cavity filled with fibers and pumpkin-sized seeds. Kinda of gross, actually, now that I think of it.

Innards of a Hubbard squash

But after all the parts I wasn’t going to use were scraped away, I was left with the shell and the real meat of the squash, ready to go back into the oven. The squash has grown in surface area at this point, and I’ve graduated from a cake pan to a cookie sheet to bake it:

Deseeded blue Hubbard squash, ready for the second oven run

Oops! Not quite ready. According to the Joy of Cooking, my absolute reference for the kitchen, the squash should be cut side down, with a quarter-inch of water and foil covered. Pretend the foil cover is in place:

blue Hubbard squash, cut side down, water added

At this point it goes back in a 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. The house should start to feel cozy-warm by now, with the great smell of roasting squash wafting through.

Ding! And out it comes. Let it cool a bit, and the meat is easy to scrape off the shell pieces with a spoon. I dumped it all in the mixer, added some butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and a little maple syrup:

Add butter, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg and maple syrup…

The end result, a generous quart of squash, filled with fiber, iron, potassium, vitamin A, beta carotene, vitamin C, and niacin. Plus it tastes good, with a rich, complex flaor! What’s not to like?

Mushed squash puree

I scooped some of it into containers for freezing and ate the rest, right from the bowl. Yum!

blue Hubbard squash, ready for the freezer

Kudos, Deb, for a great recommendation of a new vegetable to try.

And Elizabeth, the washerwoman? That story goes back a ways. According to the legend, a sea captain found a new variety of squash in South America in the late 1800s and gave the seeds to his sister Sarah Martin. She was a shy sort of woman and gave the seeds to her friend Elizabeth Hubbard to try.

Elizabeth in turn passed them on to a man she washed clothes for, a seedsman named James Gregory. They made his fortune. Because of the popularity of the squash, he went on to become the largest seed grower in America by the early 1900s and named the squash in Elizabeth’s honor.

If her friend Sarah had been a litte braver, perhaps we would be celebrating the Martin squash instead of the Hubbard.

If you don’t dare, you may never have a squash named after you!

What about you.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve cooked?
What is your favorite, cook-all-the-time comfort meal?

 

FREE Kindle mystery 10/13-14-15 only — BLOOD IN TAVASCI MARSH

Blood in Tavasci Marsh

Blood in Tavasci Marsh is the story of families who stick together, no matter what. And there’s a lot of “no matter what” in this mystery. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.

Take, for example, Pegasus Quincy’s extended family: her grandfather HT; his housekeeper, Isabel; Benjamin Yazzie, her office assistant and sometime computer hacker; and a new friend, who becomes more than a friend, just when Peg needs one.

And then there’s the story of the Nettle family, united over a tragic death years ago, and now facing another. Even a black-sheep brother, exiled for years, is welcomed back as the family struggles with mobsters demanding cash, the return to a bootleg whiskey enterprise, and a threat to the family homestead.

All at the seasonal change of Fall Equinox and the Day of the Dead Festival.

Join me, as the life education of Pegasus Quincy continues.

AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON: BLOOD AT TAVASCI MARSH

Why setting is so important in a mystery series

Blood in Tavasci MarshWhen I began planning the Pegasus Quincy mystery series, my prime impetus was to share the beautiful Verde Valley with the world. The area is a paradox, a small valley with one major river and five named creeks in the middle of a state, Arizona, renown for its deserts.

The first novel, Death in Copper Town, introduced the fictional small town of Mingus, located in the mountains that were made famous during their copper mining heydays. The second, Blood in Tavasci Marsh, continues exploration of this setting by moving down the hill to the Native American Indian Ruins at Tuzigoot and the marsh below it.

Setting can involve time, as well. What better time of year to visit a ghost town than at Halloween? In this second novel, Mingus prepares for the holiday in typical small town fashion: Pegasus visits the old mining cemetery, Isabel prepares for the Day of the Dead ceremonies, and the entire town, shops and all, decorate for the holiday with skeletons and pumpkins.

Setting involves not only plants, but animal life. Blood in Tavasci Marsh concerns a young man in love with the beauty of indigenous butterflies, his brother who is breeding redbone coonhounds, and Shepherd’s cat, who becomes more than a match for Pegasus.

Weather is another ingredient of setting. The second novel in the series takes place in the volatile autumn season in Mingus, where one day is sweltering hot, and the next brings an ice storm that paralyzes the Valley. Both will influence how the story develops and resolves.

Characters in a novel, no matter what the genre, must be developed three-dimensionally in order for the story to work. But setting is no less an integral part of story development.

Join me as Pegasus Quincy continues to grow as a person and as a law officer in the novel Blood in Tavasci Marsh!