Confetti Bowl with Eclectic Garden Pesto 2

When Mike and Kelly bought their house 3 summers ago, the only noteworthy feature in the yard was a low growing weeping red Japanese maple. Except for a few unremarkable shrubs, the yard was  pretty much empty except for the grass over uneven ground. Since then, they have applied their vision and talents to transforming it into an Eden-in-progress: they put in a lovely brick path to the back yard, raised beds in the front, a fenced garden in back, and landscaped along the fences with flowers, lilies, lemon balm and even fruits and veggies. This year they are getting their first grapes growing on beautiful vines over the fence.

Like all successful gardening couples I’ve known, they wisely divide the labor. Mike does the heavy lifting to manifest Kelly’s vision, and makes sure all the solar lights are working, and Kelly tends the plants and makes decisions about what goes where. Thus, a magical harmony emanates from this well-loved space, and not only that–it yields an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables for a longer growing season than I’ve known in the last 20 or more years.

Kelly is wonderful at going outside and coming back in with the fixings for a whole meal made from the garden, even this early in the year. So when it was my turn to drum something up for dinner, I, too, turned to the magic of the garden for creative suggestions to brighten up some things from the fridge we needed to use up, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Some of you may remember my fondness for what I call confetti salad. This meal takes that concept and turns it into a supper or lunch bowl made special by an oil free pesto that gets its eclectic tastiness from what was fresh in the garden. And this time, remarkably, I had the wherewithal to write down what I did right after I did it.

If you don’t happen to have these same treasures ready in your own garden and you can’t find them at the grocery store or your local farmer’s market, feel free to improvise. This is an oil free pesto that uses some avocado as a smooth and mellow binding agent. You can pair it with the classics basil and garlic and it should work fine. But if you can, experiment with adding the things I used, or some other herbal garden treasures of your own.



This incredible sunflower in Kelly and Mike’s front garden opened just in time for the exact Solstice point Sunday morning.

Kelly's Solstice Sunflower

Now that’s some potent garden magic. Happy Summer, Friends!

Maria (moonwatcher)


Bobby's Oak Table

Sometimes when it seems like everything in life is completely up in the air, the best thing to do is gather round a table with those who help us stay grounded. I’ve always loved the phrase “gather round” because it so succinctly captures of being surrounded by a loving essence and holding it in the time honored power of the circle.

I was very fortunate last week to be able to do that in Portland, and around my old oak table (which you can read about in the post Turning the Tables), now gracing the dining area of my second son Bobby’s house out in St. John’s. We gathered for a Saturday brunch. We got to meet his lovely new girlfriend, and another dear friend and former room mate who owns a home around the block with him is now my real estate agent in Portland. She came with her boyfriend, who is also from north Idaho. So I got to gather round my old table with a cluster of wonderful young people, all beginning or about to begin their 3rd decade.

I made a salad version of Susan’s African Pineapple Peanut Stew to bring to the gathering. It was an eclectic mix of the basics of her recipe and what we had in the fridge. Instead of chickpeas, we used black beans. We added red and green bell pepper and more garlic and used fresh pineapple. A version of the peanut butter sauce became the salad dressing.

African Pineapple Peanut Veggie Salad

And Mike cooked up some yummy tempeh made bright with lemon zest, pepper, peppers and garlic.

Mike's Lemony Tempeh Salad

But the real gift was to see the thoughtful spread on an antique ironing board and my old table prepared by our hosts, which included things Laura and Bobby knew I could eat. They steamed some kale from the garden. There was a bowl of fresh fruit. And along with the pan fried hash browns, there was a bowl of steamed potatoes (you can see these in the photo at the top of this post). I ate them all.

Brunch at Bobby's

At the moment I am writing this post, I have no idea where I will be living in Portland, and the buyer for me house in Moscow has not signed off on the inspection just yet. My life feels literally up in the air. So I was especially grateful to see Bobby so nicely ensconced in his new home, painting the front bedroom, building a deck out the back door, and enjoy his first vegetable garden ever. We had some of his first raspberries of the season in our fruit bowls, too.

I was also reminded of the mystery that opens up when we excavate the old, hoping to create something new. Bobby opened up a wall to a small room just off his kitchen to make more open space and maybe a breakfast nook. In this process he discovered some small boxes inside the wall holding the newspaper obituary of someone who may have lived in the house back in the 1930s, a telegram that mentions his passing and the date, and a pile of tiny cards from flowers that were given to the family as condolences, notes of sympathy written in the careful cursive penmanship people once prided themselves on, decades before we all began typing on screens. As we pondered his findings, I asked Bobby what he planned to do with them. He said he thought when it was time to finish up the new wall that he would put them back in, with a note about himself and how he found them and when, to make a kind of time capsule for someone in the future. That sounded perfect to me.

Sometimes we simply don’t know what the future holds. We make our plans and hope for the best, but often those plans lead us into more unexpected mystery. It’s not always easy to let mystery reign, but honestly there’s not much to be done but respect it’s ability to hold us in sway.

When I fall headlong into mystery, experiences of gathering like this remind me that it’s the people and the love and the richness of each moment that make life worth living, not the things that accompany that, even the houses, nice though they may be. I have been blessed with owning two incredibly sound and cozy homes. I hope the third one, though it may be the smallest of all, will hold the magic of the saying “third time’s a charm.” I’ve always had a little magic on my side and great help from all my angels, both human ones and more ethereal ones. So I’ll take the experience of a lovely meal with this younger generation as a blessing along my mysterious way to wherever I am headed. It was a true welcome into the arms of Portland.

Maria (moonwatcher)





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