DSC_0352This morning when I was making a fresh pasta salad I got to thinking of summers past.  Here I am an adult in my own kitchen in Chester County and I hear the sounds of memories on a hot summer day and places now a lifetime away.

This has been a big month.  One of my best friends turned 50 on June 20th and another today June 26th.  The one turning 50 today should remember this time of year when we were 12 and 13 respectively and we were suffering through the Tennis Farm at Shipley – our mothers had big hopes for our tennis capabilities (and that was all shot to hell in a hand basket rather quickly!)

My father’s birthday is on June 29th.  He was born on the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. Odd bit of trivia to remember but when I was between 9th and 10th grades and on my first visit to Europe, the village in Alsace I was in had some sort of Saints Day remembrance.DSC_0351

So I was looking through old photos today and pulled out a couple in particular having to do with my father – one photo was taken at my great aunts’ former home on Ritner Street in South Philadelphia when he was only a few weeks old.  The photo says on the rear in fading old-fashioned script “July 20, 1935 baby 21 days old”.  My father is being held by his father whom I only have a few memories of because he died when I was quite young.

One of the memories I do have of  Pop-Pop, my father’s father, is him teaching me how to plant my first tomato plants in my first garden. Yes, a summer memory and I remember we planted plum tomatoes and one of the plants bore a tomato that looked like a little baseball mittstutzheim.

Another photo I was looking at was from the late spring into summer of 1941 when my father was taken to Washington DC to see his godmother, my Great Aunt Josie who went to Washington I am told to work for the war effort during World War II – I know that was something that not every young Italian American woman of her generation was permitted to do.

It is these hot and humid summer days thus far over the past few days that have made me think of other hot and humid summer days of my life.

I remember days like this in the 7th to 8th grade area of my life and I remember swimming in the pool reserved for the estate help of the old Dorrance Estate on Monk Road in Gladwyne.  One of the girls I knew at the time had parents who worked on the estate and I believe she and her family also lived on a tenant property.  Don’t know if that second swimming pool still exists today – the estate is now inhabited by former in-law relatives of designer Tory Burch I believe.  It was a fabulous pool and even as an adult I marvel that it was for the help.beach

I remember days like this when I was even smaller and we lived in Society Hill and would go to see my great aunts in South Philadelphia.  I have these very distinct memories not of greasers and mobsters but of the little old Italian ladies up and down the street socializing with each other out on their stoops and front porches in aluminum garden chairs and even plain wooden kitchen chairs.  Their voices traveled up and down the block in the humid summer air.  It was a comforting sound, a cacophony of English and Italian.  A lot of the houses had no air-conditioning, or if they did they were window units.  I am old enough to remember when most did not have central air. It was at that house in South Philadelphia I learned how to make pasta on a giant ceramic topped kitchen table too.

I spent a lot of time with my great aunts growing up.  My father was their favorite out of his siblings and my parents’ relationship with my father’s late mother was difficult at best a lot of my growing up years.  My father’s mother and I actually had a better relationship when I became an adult and she was living in a nursing home close to where I was working.

Grandmom was a very intelligent woman, just not very easy-going.  Grandmom was someone who truthfully hurt my feelings a great deal as a small child.  I remember one time I had either made brownies or chocolate chip cookies for the first time with my mother and for some reason I wanted to tell Grandmom. I was maybe in 3rd or 4th grade.  So we called her up on the phone.  She did not say “that is wonderful” or any of those simple platitudes little girls love, she had to tell me how my oldest female cousin had made Baked Alaska or something preposterous.  I was crushed.  She was however one of the oldest survivors of breast cancer I ever knew.

Summer days like this also remind me of my mother’s parents.  Mumma and Poppy were so much fun.  My Poppy was this little Irishman and Mumma was Pennsylvania German.  But with the two of them there was never any awkwardness, you just knew you were loved.  mumma

Summer and my Mumma meant fruit pies with that crazy perfectly high meringue on top like you see in diners.  Only her pies were amazing tasting too with perfect flakey crusts.  And one summer  we all remember her also  helping convince my father to let us take home a stray kitten who found us in Avalon.  “I always have loved a red cat.” she said.  And yes, Kitty Joy came home.

Summer also meant days down in the Gardens of Ocean City NJ playing on the beach when I was really little and then playing in the dunes of Avalon (there used to be amazing sand dunes before mother nature and over building took over). Summer at the beach meant decorating your bikes for bike parades, getting soft fresh donuts still warm from the oven dusted with confectioners sugar and sticky cinnamon buns from the bakery with my father on early weekend mornings, and looking at the constellations and for shooting stars on a wide open beach at night.

kitty joySummer also meant to me as a child the art and crafts fair that my mother and a lot of her friends helped start and volunteered for at Head House Square in Society Hill – otherwise known as the Head House Square Shambles.  There you would see art of many of Philadelphia’s best artists of the day, including family friend Margery Niblock.

Summer also meant visits to my mother’s German friends who were sisters.  They lived in Schwenksville and Harleysville respectively in amazing old farm houses.  One sister used to have a 4th of July party we went to sometimes as a little girl.  It was a huge thing with people and kids all over the place.  I remember pigs roasting on a spit, watermelons carved into baskets and filled with fruit salad and grown men acting like boys and taunting the billy-goat who usually butted someone right in the rear before the night was over. niblock.bmp

So where am I going with all of this? I don’t really know.  I just seem awash in memories this week so I decided to write some of them down. Like many people, I live in Chester County now, but it isn’t where I started life.  And those memories of chasing fireflies and snap pops exploding on a hot summer sidewalk or salt water taffy on the boardwalk  or kick the can in the twilight and rounds of Marco Polo in the pool should be remembered fondly once in a while.

In  the adult you find the echoes of the child they once were, don’t you? The kaleidoscope doesn’t have to be a crazy twirl, if you let your mind open you too will remember some of what made summers your own as a child.

positive influences

lizzieHow to begin this post? Well it is kind of personal and introspective.

It begins many moons ago when I was in 5th grade.

Yes, 5th grade.

I had this young teacher who was British and not so long out of  school.  Her name then was Mrs. Gibson and I thought she was amazing.  She introduced me to all sorts of things I have carried forward in my life, and encouraged my love of books and reading.  That of course still exists today and my favorite books have traveled with me my whole life.

It was Mrs. Gibson and my mother who introduced me to an author whose books I still re-read today: Elizabeth Goudge.  Mrs. Gibson read us Green Dolphin Street, which at the time was probably a little old for us, but it is also a favorite book/author of my mother’s so I think I have re-read this book easily a dozen times over the course of my life.

Mrs. Gibson was my teacher at St. Peter’s School at 4th and Pine Streets in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia where my family lived when I was a young girl.  I wrote about St. Peter’s Church on this blog a year or so ago when they needed to do repairs. St. Peter’s was an amazing little grade school which still exists today. I had many positive experiences at that school and to this day still have friends from those years.

5th grade

We eventually left Society Hill for the Main Line and Mrs. Gibson left the US and returned to the UK  and became among other things a several times over published author and poet and continued to teach.

Lizzie (as I now call her) and I reconnected many, many years ago and stayed in touch via letter, e-mail, and Facebook. Now some might think it odd that I keep in touch with some of my teachers from grade school and high school, but truthfully I had some amazing teachers in my life and I just always liked them as people too.

Lizzie now Lizzie Ballagher and I sat down today for the first time in literally decades as she was in the US for a visit to friends and family.    And it was a very special moment for me as  she had not seen me in person (nor I her) since I was 11 years old.  We had just stayed in touch throughout the years. I think we both got a little teary when we saw each other at first this morning.

We had a good gab and walked around downtown Wayne which was out middle ground of distance.  I never knew until today that she was terrified when she first started to teach us – she was so young, we were so young.

They say life is about circles, and today I experienced that yet again.  It proves to me the importance of formative years and good friendships.  Some people shed a lot of people throughout their lives, I keep people. Yes, all the way back to grade school.

It is because of having known people like Lizzie that I am often so hyper critical of schools and school districts, as well as somewhat merciless in my commentary on teachers and coaches who cross unspeakable lines with students. I was truly blessed to have so many positive influences and it is such a cool experience to be able to visit with someone who watched you grow and whom you also watched grow. Of course the great irony here is when you are making these amazing connections when you are younger you take it for granted.

It is an amazing experience to carry forward positive influences like awesome teachers in your life, and I can’t help but wonder in today’s world how many kids are still able to do that?   Do we still life in a world that allows these connections?


paula deen: cookin’ up controversy faster than melting butter

paula deenAt first I was horrified when I heard about Paula Deen and her purported use of racial slurs past and present. I don’t cotton to racism in any form, but now I have to wonder is Paula Deen partially a victim of the political correctness police in this country? A scapegoat for a conversation no one, let alone modern southerners, wants to have?

Face it the topic no one wants to discuss ever in this country is racism. And no matter what you say on the topic, someone is going to be pissed off or offended. Discussing racism is the ultimate no-win conversation.

Huffington Post: Paula Deen Fired: Food Network Cancels Show After Racism Scandal

By RUSS BYNUM  06/21/13 05:45 PM ET EDT AP

SAVANNAH, Ga. — The Food Network said Friday it’s dumping Paula Deen, barely an hour after the celebrity cook posted the first of two videotaped apologies online begging forgiveness from fans and critics troubled by her admission to having used racial slurs in the past.

The 66-year-old Savannah kitchen celebrity has been swamped in controversy since court documents filed this week revealed Deen told an attorney questioning her under oath last month that she has used the N-word. “Yes, of course,” Deen said, though she added, “It’s been a very long time.”

The Food Network, which made Deen a star with “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2002 and later “Paula’s Home Cooking” in 2008, weighed in with a terse statement Friday afternoon.

“Food Network will not renew Paula Deen’s contract when it expires at the end of this month,” the statement said…Court records show Deen sat down for a deposition May 17 in a discrimination lawsuit filed last year by a former employee who managed Uncle Bubba’s Seafood and Oyster House, a Savannah restaurant owned by Deen and her brother, Bubba Hiers. The ex-employee, Lisa Jackson, says she was sexually harassed and worked in a hostile environment rife with innuendo and racial slurs.

Some of you may be appalled that I have even verbalized this thought of Paula-Deen-as-scapegoat/scarlet lettered woman, but the thing that gets to me about anything involving racism is we are all appalled at even the thought of it, yet it is politically incorrect to discuss it?  How do we approach racism in modern society if we can’t or won’t talk about it? And are Paula Deen’s crimes so egregious that she should lose everything?  Does the punishment fit the crime?

I am Caucasian. Or white. Pick your term.  My genetic make up is Italian, Irish and Pennsylvania German.  Am I offended when I hear slurs like “Wop” or “Mick” or “Dago” ? Yes.  Hugely so.  I also don’t like it when Catholics (which I am) are referred to by slang like “Mackerel Snappers.”

But does it make get up and sue people every time I hear something ignorant? And face it, my ancestry faced much racial and societal discrimination in this country in times past and here we are supposedly the land of the free and a melting pot.  Don’t believe me?  Look up the history of the Irish and Italian immigrants.

Am I a huge fan of Paula Deen’s? Not really. Should she have known butter than to use the N word? Of course she should have, but wow, perspective here: this is an older Southern woman who grew up in the south around the time frame focused on by the movie and book called “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett which was made into a movie by the same name.

Does where and how Paula Deen grew up excuse bad behavior? No but it explains a lot. On one level Deen would have to comprehend that it would be career suicide to spew racial slurs, yet on the other hand have we turned into a people so unforgiving that she should lose everything? It is easy to cast blame, it is really difficult to forgive and was she supposed to lie under oath?

I understand why The Food Network did what it did (She and her brother Earl Hiers are being sued by a former employee for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination),  but is this a cut and dry topic or is it as a couple of writers I read today suggest, that there are other things to be considered?

Here is an interesting blog post on the topic:

But Not Yet: Poor Paula

By now, the whole world knows that Paula Deen is a racist. They know she used an ugly word and said some despicable things and holds some disgusting attitudes about African-Americans. She has lost her television show on the Food Network and has been roundly castigated in the media for what she said. If there’s anyone in this world that’s fit to hate right now, it’s Paula Deen. But, here’s the thing: if she’s a racist, so am I.

That last statement probably deserves a little explanation. Ms. Deen and her brother, Earl Hiers, are being sued by former employee Lisa Jackson for sexual harassment and workplace discrimination. While being deposed, Ms. Deen was asked by the plantiff’s attorney “Have you ever used the N-word yourself?”, to which she answered “Yes, of course”. I have to say, if someone were to ask me that same question, the only truthful answer would also be “Yes, of course”. Because I have said it. More than once.

While I grew up in the south, I didn’t grow up in an overtly racist home…Truthfully, my family has never seen any individuals different than ourselves…. In 1976, my grandfather was incensed when Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, saying “Ain’t no nigger ought to break Babe Ruth’s record”….

Is Paula Deen guilty of the sin of racism? Yes, but that’s not why we’re pissed at her. We’re pissed because she reminded us (white America) that we’re not quite as progressive as we’d like to think. Because, when most of us read what she said, somewhere deep down in the recesses of our psyches, we agreed with her. When we read what she said about “ a bunch of little n—–s to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties” and how “in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around”, we smiled. And, when we read “Now that would be a true southern wedding, wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that”, we said “Damn right, they would.”

There’s a feeding frenzy over Paula Deen as a result of what she said in that deposition and isn’t because what she said was wrong (it was). It isn’t because white Americans are truly invested in “justice for all” (we aren’t). This feeding frenzy is happening because it allows us to ignore the ugly things we think and say and do when comes those who aren’t quite like us. We’re worried about the speck in our sister’s eye so we don’thave to worry about the log in our own. And, until we deal with that log, our cries of racism will continue to ring hollow.

This post really made me think.  However, another thing that has been playing out on the Main Line between an Ardmore neighborhood and Iron Hill Brewery has also made me think about this issue or racism that is still an elephant in most rooms that people are afraid to discuss. In this thing between a historically minority neighborhood and a generally respected business that has a couple of Chester County locations it was inferred if not said outright (paraphrasing from reports of said meeting) at a local meeting that this neighborhood didn’t want yuppies from places like Gladwyne drinking beer and driving through their neighborhood and how is that not ugly? How is that not considered racist on the face of it’s twisted merit? Is that attitude ok?

See what I mean? Is it ok for some folks to say some things but not others? What is racism today?

The Anti Defamation League website defines racism thusly:

Racism is the belief that a particular race is superior or inferior to another, that a person’s social and moral traits are predetermined by his or her inborn biological characteristics. Racial separatism is the belief, most of the time based on racism, that different races should remain segregated and apart from one another….Racism has existed throughout human history. It may be defined as the hatred of one    person by another — or the belief that another person is less than human — because of    skin color, language, customs, place of birth or any factor that supposedly reveals the    basic nature of that person. It has influenced wars, slavery, the formation of nations,    and legal codes.

Racism is hate and hate takes many forms.  But is Paula Deen the only person guilty of racist behavior in the form of racial slurs? Or much like Martha Stewart Martha-Stewart-Jail(who I am definitely not a fan of) when she went to jail following an insider trading scandal, is Paula Deen similarly another perfect scapegoat?  Part of me always felt that although Martha deserved what she got that she received more harsh treatment than a lot of men had because she is a strong woman who has seen a lot more success than a great percentage of men.

I am not going all Gloria Steinem and am not burning my bra but I can’t help but wonder about all those helpful double standards that exist.  It’s like the debate of strong opinionated women being called bitches versus the treatment their male counterparts receive.

The other thing that bothers me about this whole Paula Deen controversy is Food Network firing Paula Deen affects all the people who worked on her shows too.  I mean let us get real, will they simply absorb all those people into other areas of the cable giant?  That would be a negative.  And of course on the heels of Foot Network’s decision comes Smithfield Foods (the ham people) dumping her and rumors of Chester County’s QVC about to do the same and what happened until waiting to see how this court case turns out? ( I will note that I am only discussing the racial slur aspect of the Paula Deen case.  If her brother is proven to be a sexual harasser I have absolutely no pity or understanding there – pervs in the workplace are the worst , inexcusable, and utterly disgusting.)

USA TODAY: Wickham: Forgive Paula Deen for epithet, but not butter

DeWayne Wickham,   12:12 p.m. EDT June 24, 2013

Why fire her for telling truth under oath? Pushing fatty foods was her real crime.

So in my humble opinion as a woman who was raised by parents not to see color and as someone who has a wide range and array of friends of many nationalities and ethnicities it seems to me that Paula Deen’s troubles and the extremes of points of view we are seeing as a result, is that we are long overdue on an honest and open conversation about racism AND political correctness. I hate racism. I hate discrimination.

I don’t know.  Maybe I am shooting at rainbows and unicorns here, I just don’t see this whole thing as cut and dry.  After all do we remember how we treated Japanese Americans as well as Italian Americans in this country in World War II ? Where many Japanese had reparations made post World War II (Japanese and Italians were thrown into internment camps, had their property seized and were subjected to crazy surveillance in Canada and the US), Italian Americans and Italian Canadians did not receive such reparation.

Humans can be amazing and humans can be cruel and stupid.

Thoughts? Here are some things to read:

Time: Viewpoint: The Food Network Should Give Paula Deen Back  Her Job / People of her generation can neither change the past, nor  completely escape their roots in it

By June 24, 2013

Paula Deen grew up in Georgia. In the fifties. Her world was the one depicted  in The Help, in which black people’s status as lesser beings was  casually assumed. So, who is really surprised that she has used the N-word  in her life? It would be downright strange if she hadn’t, and we can assume the  same of pretty much any white Southerner of a certain age (not to mention more  than a few Americans of other regions).

And yet the Food Network has fired her after revelations that Deen has been a  normal person of her time and place. Even though she has leveled no fewer than  three public apologies. The reason is the unique status of the N-word.

(MORE: Paula  Deen Begs for Your Forgiveness, For Something)

In modern America, we really have only a few genuinely profane words, and the  N-word is one of them……..This taboo status, then, is why Deen is being fired for what her fans are  decrying as “just using a word,” and also why Deen in her videos steps around  even saying what she said. Yet this restraint on her part is also an  indication that she, like most Americans, has gotten the message. Crucially,  getting the message doesn’t mean becoming superhuman. Changing times cannot  utterly expunge all traces in her of the old South’s assumptions. Old habits of  thought linger, like eczema and asthma….People of Deen’s generation can neither change the past nor completely escape  their roots in it… They can apologize and mean  it, as Deen seems to. They also deserve credit for owning up to past sins, as  Deen did candidly when she could easily have, shall we say, whitewashed the  matter.

The taboo on the N-word, and associated attitudes, is appropriate. It’s  certainly smarter than the goofiness of the 1800s when the terms white and dark  meat emerged to avoid the possible sexual connotations of referring to breasts  and thighs. However, we’re less smart when we turn taboo enforcement into  implacable witch hunting, which is not thought but sport.

gone but not forgotten

On February 19th, 2013 this blog broke the story of intolerable cruelty in West Vincent Township.  It was about the unwarranted shooting of two puppies named Argus & Fiona by a man named Gabe Pilotti in West Vincent Township. Since that time there has been much back and forth and legal hop scotch as people wait for a trial date so justice may be done the right way through our legal system.

This morning was supposed to have been the court date at the Chester County Courthouse in downtown West Chester, PA.  These were the charges levied back in February by the Chester County District Attorney’s Office:


1 M1 18 § 5511 §§A2.1IA Cruelty To Animals 02/12/2013 T 295420-6

2 M1 18 § 5511 §§A2.1IA Cruelty To Animals 02/12/2013 T 295420-6

3 M2 18 § 2705 Recklessly Endangering Another Person 02/12/2013 T 295420-6

argus and fiona

But according to my sources, no court date took place earlier this morning.  (I am sick or I would have been at the courthouse, truthfully.)

The Bock family has suffered through the loss of their dogs and the ups and downs of the justice system, and I feel really badly for them and the memory of Argus & Fiona.  No one has asked for the sun, moon, or stars.  No one has condoned or asked for vigilante justice.  All anyone has asked for is that the justice system see this through and for lawmakers to consider strengthening dog laws in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania so families and pets in this state not only have legal recourse, but laws that aren’t antiquated and might actually protect innocent pet owners and their domestic animals.

We’re still waiting.  And we want everyone to know we have not forgotten Argus & Fiona.  And neither should you.

I know that West Vincent Township would love everyone to forget about Argus  & Fiona because it happened in that warped Mayberry.  And like everything else that happens in West Vincent, it seems to be a bit of a hot mess still doesn’t it?  After all, why is it months ago when the charges were announced, why is it that West Vincent Township PD couldn’t confiscate one shotgun pending the outcome of the legal proceedings?

Mary Bock commented the other day on the Justice for Argus & Fiona Facebook page:

To all the wonderful people who have been supporting us and this fight for justice for Argus and Fiona, I wanted to give you a little update as to where we stand.  Because the defense has control over  the dates for court appearances, our initial main concern was having the gun removed from Pilotti’s possession….but because he has an “emotional attachment” to the gun it wasn’t that easy…..The DA suggested…that the gun be placed in a lock box at his neighbor’s house. The background checks were done on the neighbor and the gun was handed over….Sometimes it’s very hard to get any information…Thank you everyone for the continued support and all of your kind words

Again, I am not having a gun debate here (nor am I deliberately slamming or questioning the Chester County District Attorney’s office ) but I still fail to understand that since there has been a reckless endangerment charge pending why West Vincent didn’t pick up that gun and simply lock it up for safekeeping when those charges landed months ago? I have been told that is common practice when there are legal proceedings pending so I have always found this back and forth on what should be fairly cut and dry confusing.  I also do not get how you could have an emotional attachment to a shotgun, do you? I sure hope that West Vincent has periodically checked to see that this gun is in fact locked up  in this neighbor’s gun safe don’t you?

I do know that people in West Vincent are holding their breath still on this and let me be abundantly clear, I embrace responsible dog ownership just like I embrace responsible gun ownership.  I also respect the farmers’ rights to defend their livestock in crisis situation, but this was never a crisis situation because these puppies never attacked anything did they? I am also still at sixes and sevens as to whether or not Gabe Pilotti is actually a farmer or truly a hobbyist?  There is a difference.

I will also state again for the record that despising what Mr. Pilotti did in February is honest human emotion.  However I do not condone the behavior of people who stood in the middle of roads shouting with bullhorns or trespassed on people’s property or threatening him.  That is all wrong.

I post today to reaffirm that  people have not forgotten these poor dogs and what fate befell them and to remind lawmakers that they can’t just talk a good game when it comes to protecting our domestic pets like dogs.  They actually have to get off their duffs and DO something.  These pets aren’t property like an azalea bush or an ear of corn, they are part of our families. And since Argus & Fiona were shot to death we have heard of other cases of intolerable cruelty like this in Pennsylvania and other states.

Please contact your lawmakers again about Justice for Argus & Fiona and for changes to the dog laws and animal cruelty laws so animals are properly protected. I would also go as far as to suggest not only contacting your state elected officials (as in State Representatives and State Senators) but your U.S. Congressman as well for stronger Federal laws.  For most of us in Chester County, we are either served by Pat Meehan or Jim Gerlach.

And I really hope some day that Mr. Pilotti can express remorse to the Bocks eye to eye, don’t you? After all how will that man ever have peace in his own world without doing that?

I will close this post with a Buddhist prayer I find oddly apropos here today (yes I know not the norm you expect from a Catholic but never the less):

By the power and truth of this practice:
May all beings have happiness and the cause of happiness
May all beings be free from sorrow and the causes of sorrow
May all never be separated from the sacred happiness which is sorrow less
And may all live in equanimity without too much attachment and too much aversion
And live believing in the equality of all that lives.

-The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying


oh my! blueberry pie!

pie oh my

Preheat oven to 375°

I have given you basic pie dough recipes before, and they are on the blog.

Sometimes even I take a shortcut- If I do not feel like rolling my own dough out, I purchase Marie Callender deep dish pie crusts.  They are in the frozen section of your grocery store. I did that this time.



5 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries washed and drained
1 1/4 cups of Florida Crystals Demerara Sugar
6 tablespoons of flour
1 generous teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger
The zest of one medium-size lemon and the juice of half of that lemon

In a large mixing bowl mix all the filling ingredients listed above together. Fold gently and thoroughly you’re not mashing anything.

Set bowl to the side

Crumble topping:

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup Florida Crystals Demerara  Sugar
1 cup Quaker quick oats (plain not flavored)
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 stick unsalted butter cut into little bitty squares
1 1/2 f teaspoons of cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon of cardamom

Use a  pastry cutter or pair of forks to blend the topping ingredients together until soft crumbles form- Crumbles should be relatively uniform in size. Put the topping in the refrigerator for half an hour to 45 minutes.

Before you put the pie together, if you are using a fresh or frozen pie crust now is the time that you use a little  softened butter In a light coat and spread gently on the bottom of the crust in the pan. It keeps the crust from getting soft. It is a tip I picked up from watching Chef Robert Irvine on TV- used to use the Martha Stewart egg white painted along the bottom of the crust, but I like this better.
Fold your berries into your deep dish pie crust and spread the crumble topping evenly on top – I tend to be slightly mounded in the middle of the pie crust. Do not overfill your pie crust or your oven will hate you later.

I make a light tinfoil piecrust covering edge for my pies before I put them in the oven, or you can use one of those pie baking rings .

Another tip: Because this is a fruit pie I generally cook it on a cookie sheet Or a shallow pan like a jellyroll pan in the oven- That way it saves on spills later

Bake the pie at 375° for  approximately 50 to 55 minutes, depending on your oven.

Pie will smell delicious and you’ll see some of the blueberries bubbling through the crunchy topping when it is ready.

When the pie is  finished put it on a baking rack to cool, which ideally should be at least four hours so the filling sets.

fl crystals
Pie is best served the day it is made I think, and should be served at room temperature. You can serve plain or with good vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

I will note that this organic Florida Crystals Demerara sugar is exceptionally good for baking fruit pies with – I tried it on a whim once because they said so on heir packaging, and guess what? They were right.

The final note is I have never written this pie recipe down before, so I hope the proportions are correct. To me baking fruit pies is like making homemade pasta – have done it for so long it is sort of instinctive – I grew up around people who cooked and baked – so from trial an error I just sort of learned if stuff felt right and so on.



where have all the roses gone?

rose4Happy first day of summer!

Where have all the roses gone?

Are local gardeners so lazy that nurseries don’t carry them any longer?

Or is the beautiful rose, once an iconic American and British garden staple merely out of fashion?

Have roses gone the way of any plant not easy for a developer to “shrub” a plastic coated development with?

I think the answer is yes to all questions above, and I think it is sad.

I love roses.  I love roses enough that once upon a time I wrote something for the American Rose Society which still exists over 15 years later on their website (Read it here on this website too! Roses-Thrive-on-Routine ).

more roses

I have a small collection of rose books in my personal library, including one of my favorites called In Search of Lost Roses by Thomas Christopher – here is a snippet of an old interview:

Thomas Christopher author of In Search of Lost Roses

Read an excerpt from the book.

Question: What are “lost roses,” and how did they get that way?

Christopher: Traditionally, gardeners grew a tremendous diversity of roses—some 6,000 different kinds were introduced by nurserymen in the nineteenth century alone. Not all of these roses were available at any given time, but still, a century ago gardeners took for granted that they would have access to roses of all sorts of sizes and colors, from tiny five-petalled roses very little different from the wild species, to huge, petal-packed puffs as much as six inches in diameter.

This situation changed at the beginning of the twentieth century. The nursery industry consolidated, so that the growing of roses was handled by a few giant firms. To maximize profits, these businesses trimmed the product lines, eliminating the less than best-selling roses. Eventually, the rose growers focused on the production of the widely-popular new hybrid tea roses to the exclusion of almost everything else.

The other roses, the heritage of 2,500 years of breeding and gardening, disappeared from nursery catalogs and eventually from gardens, too. They were lost and presumed dead until a handful of imaginative rosarians made it their business in the 1970s and 1980s to search out specimens surviving in abandoned gardens, cemeteries, and other inadvertent sanctuaries. My book is the story of these collectors and their crusade.

It was this book that got me hooked on old roses.  By the time I read it I already was in love with David Austin’s English Roses and the royalty of American Hybrid Tea roses like “Princesse de Monaco“, “John F. Kennedy” , “Climbing Joseph’s Coat“, and “Peace”.

But where are these and old garden roses today?  Thomas Christopher might want to consider a follow-up book as roses are quickly disappearing from the American garden landscape.


A flower as American as Apple Pie shouldn’t disappear from gardens.  They are regal and amazing flowers and much like your pets and children will thrive on simple and consistent routines.  Has our world evolved so much that because a rose bush is not instant gratification that we can no longer grow it?

I went searching for roses this spring.  Chester County has a slew of nurseries and while I could find every other shrub, roses were on the endangered species list.  The only roses to be found were sorry specimens from prior seasons that should have been marked down for a rose lover to adopt, but weren’t and those “Knock Out Roses” – Knock Out Roses are apparently the evolution of the American Garden Rose and purportedly require little care.  They are o.k. but they don’t give me that true garden rose feeling.roses3

I finally had to order my roses bare root.  I hated to not give local nurseries the business, but they didn’t have the stock. I don’t mind planting bare root rose, it is fairly easy – just follow the directions of the grower.

Yes, I know deer like roses, but that is why you have fences and dogs.

So yesterday when I stopped at Woodlawn Landscaping and Nursery in Malvern (the old Potters site on Paoli Pike for those of you who haven’t been there), I got to talking roses with one of my favorite nurserywomen there as I picked out some perennials.  She told me how the rose industry had faltered and about  Jackson & Perkins bankruptcy a couple of years,  and financial issues other rose growers had experienced in this crazy economy of the past few years.

So roses are a victim of the economy too? Thanks, President Obama.  My healthcare keeps going up and now I can’t find a simple pleasure like rose bushes? I wonder if the White House Rose Garden has suffered as a result? (Sorry, didn’t mean to get political but roses are an American tradition are they not? Shouldn’t someone be indignant?)

Here is an article I found that I thought was interesting:

LA Times Bloom comes off the rose industry

In recent years, time-strapped homeowners have traded their big tea roses for the easier-growing compact shrub variety. Many hybrid varieties may disappear from the marketplace.

March 08, 2012|By Debbie Arrington

Future generations may never know the beauty of Diana, Princess of Wales; sniff Catalina in the sunshine; or fall for Beloved.For a century, devoted gardeners have appreciated the marvels of delicate and finicky hybrid roses and referred to them by name, like pets or family. The product of generations of breeding, the queen of flowers could act like a spoiled princess because its delicate blooms offered a special reward.

In recent years, though, time-strapped homeowners have traded their big teas for compact shrub roses — utilitarian soldiers in the landscape that could cover ground without fuss.

Our desire for the carefree — no-iron shirts, no-wax floors, and now low-maintenance yards — has brought the rose industry to a crossroads.

“At some point, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy,” said Charlie Anderson, president of Weeks Roses, the only major company still creating new varieties of full-size roses. “[Landscape] roses will be all you have; the beautiful, unique hybrid teas will be gone.”

The flagging economy has compounded the rose industry’s troubles.

Two years ago, rose giant Jackson & Perkins, which had annually shipped 10 million bushes nationwide, filed for bankruptcy protection. Many of the hybrid roses the company created — such as Diana, Catalina and Beloved — may soon disappear from the mass market as the supply of those bushes dries up.

“Roses are viewed as an extravagance, and they’re still trying to shed that stigma,” said Seth Taylor of Capital Nursery…..The annual wholesale value of California’s rose crop dropped 55% to $27.20 million in 2010 from a high of $61.05 million in 2003, according to nursery industry expert Hoy Carman, a retired UC Davis professor.

“The whole nursery industry is down,” Carman said. “In 2008, sales just plummeted.”

Said Adams of the Rose Society: “Roses are not the first thing homeowners think of when they want to plant a garden. Competition with other choice plants is fierce…. Most major rose growers have gone bankrupt or consolidated with other wholesale nurseries…..Jackson & Perkins, acquired by J&P Park Acquisitions Inc. of South Carolina, no longer develops and grows new roses. Before bankruptcy, the company farmed 5,000 acres in Wasco with 20,000 bushes per acre. Without buyers, many of those bushes were burned.

Once a breeder goes bankrupt, its roses usually disappear with it. Rose patents — good for 18 to 20 years — may be sold, but budwood and mother plants are lost. Many Jackson & Perkins roses are now on the endangered list.

“Some will be preserved,” Anderson said. “But a lot of varieties were lost; there was no budwood to collect [to create new hybrid bushes]. Most will just disappear into the ether.”


When is the last time any of you planted a rose bush?  I don’t think there is an app for that, so when is the last time you really dug in the dirt? As in planted things yourselves?  Gardening is a primal thing to be sure, a connection between you and the land and it doesn’t have to be all perfect and chemically induced lawns, either.

I know I am a little dotty when it comes to gardening because I love to do it.  Not for other people, just myself.  It gives me peace and satisfaction.  The easiest way to inner peace is a simple walk or cooking or gardening I think.

Roses are a part of every garden I have ever had large or small.  Granted I will never have the amount of roses in my garden that I grew in my parents’ old garden (read this June 1997 Philadelphia Inquirer article where I was interviewed about rose growing – Rosy Outlook ).  Pardon me while I ramble like a proverbial rambling rose, but  wow I still remember shortly after my parents sold that house the new owner ripping out and tossing over 51 different rose bushes so he could have a look that was more developer “shrubbed” and predictable (and someone else would take care of it.)

I am making a plea to all you gardeners who are left: if you have some sun, plant some roses.  Don’t let real roses disappear. You don’t have to plant dozens, just try one or two.   After all the rose is iconic enough to Americans that it has a parade, and it is still the state flower of New York, and last I checked the White House still had a rose garden, so aren’t they worth saving and trying again?  Not those landscaper roses that have taken over, but a real rose, with that real rose smell and regal appearance? And did you know that roses are a working flower too?  Don’t believe me? Check any wine producer and let them tell you about how they plant roses in the vineyards.  They have this canary in the coal mine role – grape vines and roses are susceptible to the same diseases.

My final word on the topic is yet another article, fairly recent, that I found about roses and life:

Sherry Young: Life is like growing roses, if you don’t tend to responsibilities it may fade on you

By , Deseret News Published: Thursday, May 23 2013

In frustration with all the roses in my yard I once wrote an article titled “Roses have thorns — and thorns have roses.” It sprang from a quote by writer and novelist Alphonse Kerr, who observed, “Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.”

As a beleaguered gardener, I wrote, “My yard is filled with roses. Now, during the third summer learning curve for tending to them, I bear scars on my arms and legs from trying to figure out their perfidious nature.”

Today I stood looking around my yard, now sadly devoid of many of those beautiful plants. One by one they expired…

Whatever the cause, only a few remain to waft the air with their perfume this June. It is a great life lesson to deal with the thorns because at least there are roses.

As I stood looking, I had mixed feelings about the plight of those roses. It was actually a relief I didn’t need to prune them and feed them and chase away the aphids, but on the other hand I was sad to miss their beauty.

Life is like growing roses. If you don’t plant you won’t reap, if you don’t tend to responsibilities they may fade on you. Some varieties are hardier than others, and even among the same varieties there will be differences. Part of their success and beauty will be where they are planted.

Well, I do go on — parallels everywhere…“A garden is a thing of beauty and a job forever,” advised British actor Richard Briers


Enjoy the first day of summer.  And remember, life is all about stopping to smell the roses.  But we have to plant some first.

a – farmers’- marketing- we – will go!

AnselmaAfternoon-2Just got back from East Goshen Farmers’ Market and it was packed and FABULOUS today.  I have some beautiful produce and I bought a gorgeous Cinquefoil a/k/a Potentilla from Brogue Hydroponics.


But let us move on to other markets.  Namely the hop scotching farmers’ market.  You know, first it was at Anselma Mill (where it did so wonderfully well), then like magic it was going to move to West Vincent, only it wouldn’t really be in West Vincent, it would be in Upper Uwchlan. And then there was drama because nothing with West Vincent in the name can ever go smoothly or without drama.

waaah 1Mind you the drama and issues were self-induced and I feel no pity to anyone but the poor farmers and food purveyors and residents they had so confused. Why do I say that? Simple: if the West Vincent Farmers Market had waaah 2done things the right way, versus the West Vincent way there might actually be a farmers market in West Vincent now.  D’oh.

So when the West Vincent Farmers Market Page did the heavy sigh and the itty bitty violins of pity came out today, come on now people you did it to yourselves.

AnselmaAfternoon-13I am glad the market is back where it belongs at Anselma Mill which is a REALLY cool place if you have never been.

Enjoy the photos.  Little birdies took them for me. Not chickens, but birdies……Also noticed no Birchrunville Hills Farms Taste Our Feet at Anselma?  Didn’t they used to be there?  Also heard they were no longer a producer for the Phoenixville Farmers Market? Is the popularity of those overpriced food stuffs waning?

A final note so I am not farmers market incorrect, the Anselma Market is once again the Anselma Market, right? It is not something goofy like the West Vincent Farmers Market at Anselma, is it?

Anyway, no matter which market you prefer, thanks for getting out and supporting local farmers!


lost in transition


“Change is the only constant in life.”    
―     Heraclitus

The past year plus has been a wondrous and explorative journey into Chester County and my new life.  I am finally living the life I wanted all along, but it has not been without adjustments.

For example, where many of you have been a parent for years, I have been only doing it a short while by comparison.  It is a wonderful and terrifying journey and I am on the hunt for the Cliff Notes to help me through what doesn’t compute!

I have had a lot of change in the past few years, and moving to Chester County and off the Main Line was a big step for me.  Mind you it has truthfully been the best thing I have done for myself and my life save beating breast cancer two years ago. I always wanted to live in Chester County,  and now here I am!

But change while an amazing and a necessary part of life, is also scary.  For the first time in like three decades I am completely out of my original comfort zone and am making a new comfort zone.

I love being here in Chester County.  It is such a cool place, full of rich beauty and history….and antiques and collectibles barns to be picked LOL. garden cart

I will note that making friends as a child and making friends as a middle-aged woman are two entirely different propositions.  But I have been plodding my course and have met some really terrific people I hope to have in my life for many years. I have also rediscovered some really cool people who I knew from before who moved out here years ago.

But then there are some people who have been in my life for many years that I am at a slight loss about. And I will be honest, some of them have left me feeling a bit hurt.

Everyone is busy and life takes us all on unexpected paths, I get that, but there are some people who have not even seen where I am living. There are some who seem to think I have moved to Iowa.  They don’t even call if I don’t call them first.  And some of these people I saw almost every day for years and years and years.  When a lot of these people moved into new homes and whatnot, I was there for them. Sadly, I keep looking out as if some of them will drive up any second, but it is like I have moved to Iowa.  And who has time for a brief jaunt to Iowa, right?

I wish I could say I did not have slightly hurt feelings, but I do.  When you are the single person or person without children in the life equation of your family and friends it is like the unspoken rule that you go to them.  After all, you aren’t the one with kids and all that, you are more mobile.  And yes, at times, it is a slightly Bridget Jones life experience.

But now, when that role is changed you think things will be different.  Only it isn’t, it is just me who is different: different location, different life roles, different things I want to do. (But never fear I still like listening to Carly Simon and Mary Chapin Carpenter )

I now have an even greater admiration for my friends who have moved clear across the country and sometimes even overseas.  You don’t realize with all the joy in a new part of your life blossoming there are also a whole host of other feelings that can leave you feeling a tad conflicted.  When you become the out of sight-out of mind person it can also be difficult emotionally at times.

Don’t misunderstand me, it is really awesome meeting and getting to know new people, but sometimes you just miss the people who have been in your life for decades that you can hang out with in ratty old sweatpants and the worst band t-shirt ever.

This life experience surrounding my move has been wonderful but it does make me realize for example how we do have to encourage our children to go out of their comfort levels and expand their horizons.  When you are changing things about your life including location, part of your subconscious thinks a lot of things will be the same including the same people.  The reality of it is that is not possible.  Sadly we just don’t probably have enough emotional room to drag our old lives around into new ones.  Even if the new life is an awesome happy thing with a fabulous location included.

So now I am learning the art of letting go.  I am here in Chester County and this is my life.  It is an amazing journey which is but now getting underway.  My life blessings are many. I am grateful to the people who I have met who have welcomed me into their lives.

Life is good here in Iowa.  Hopefully some of those people who are M.I.A. in my life will check it out someday.

something new…

woodpeckerPeople have been asking me to start a dedicated website for my photos…well here it is…it is but infancy stage as I have been a little busy. But it will grow.

Simple Shots Photography: The Magic of Ordinary Days

A note to my blog readers:

I blog when the spirit moves me. So if you don’t see anything for a few days or so, no worries, I am still around….just have nothing of import to impart !