Summer walks

This weekend we made the trip to Nashville to hang out with the Carricos. We went to the zoo, made lists with the two year old, talked parent stuff, watched the baby boys squirm, took our baby swimming for the first time, and ate a lot. Baby slept terribly; parents had groggy grown up time. Basically, it was great.

After dinner I took the pup on a walk. My in laws live right near the Harpeth River, and there is a beautiful, paved path near their house. Zeb walked me up the hill and down to the path. As we walked, I kept a sharp eye out for the inevitable poison ivy and the ubiquitous geese poop. While looking at the ground, I almost missed the black dots to my right. I must have caught them out if the corner of my eye, because they stopped me in my tracks.

Blackberry brambles. Thorny, wild, sun ripened blackberries.

I spent seven summers camping and working at Camp Marymount in Fairview, TN. Camp is about thirty minutes from the path we were walking, but for a moment, I was there. The air was heavy after the morning rainstorms, and the red maples and Virginia creeper and PawPaws and sycamores were vivid in the falling light. As I strained to keep Zeb next to me, I risked the thorns and ate some berries. Just for a few seconds, I was a thirteen-year-old, a high schooler and a camp counselor again. Camp holds an indescribable place in my mind and heart. It is the place where, for a long time, I felt the most free. I wore my ugly green and purple plaid shorts and swim goggles on top of my head. I sang loud. I learned about trees. I fell in love with long walks and the music of whispering tulip poplars. I never once apologized for being myself, which is the greatest lesson Camp ever taught me. I grew up, but I still wear those shorts (to my husband’s amusement) and use those goggles. I go on meandering walks with my family and pause to close my eyes and really listen to the wind in the leaves. I am my camp self all the time.

So I ate some blackberries and walked back thinking about how much a small patch of sweltering paradise has meant in my life. A line a white in the trees will never fail to make my soul smile.


It makes me smile–this whole first week of summer thing. I live in Memphis. We are in planting zone eight, next to a giant muddy river, at the beginning (or end depending on your geographic perspective) of the Delta. It is HOT here. And it’s MUGGY. Since summer starts as soon as you have to start swimming through the air to walk the dog, it’s been the season for a month. It will stay summer until September when the humidity will finally break. Until then, I will play with my baby, laugh with my husband, work in the garden in growing or waning light, have several refreshing beers, can pickles and jam, fry in the car, eat delicious summer veggies, watch fireflies and enjoy the sunshine.

This is Memphis. We sweat here.


Things are growing.

Like the kohlrabi.20140623-125640-46600670.jpgAnd the black eyed peas, eggplant, squashes, tomatoes and baby you can see below. We went out early this morning so that I could weed and the baby could supervise before the sun got too high in the sky. Our new system: as long as he can either see me or hear me talking to him (frequently about the annoyance of opportunistic weeds), we’re good.


20140623-125638-46598318.jpgDespite the blurriness, you can hopefully tell that I was able to pick a couple of squash, some snow peas and some giant pickling cucumbers that stayed on the vine a bit too long. I’m planning on seeing what I haul in Thursday morning and then getting the summer pickling underway. Because in this house, summer means standing in a kitchen with a boiling water canner going. 20140623-125636-46596519.jpg



$ and cents

One gift we were given at our wedding two and a half years ago was a book called Smart Couples Finish Rich by David Bach. It was siting on a shelf and then put in a box and then reshelved before I finally made it a point to read it. It’s the first self-help book I’ve ever read.

Other than Bach’s annoying tendency to use trademarks in the middle of sentences, it’s concise and well written. The point that I took away from it is that it is important to own your financial future and make sure that your decisions (financial and otherwise) are in line with your personal values. These are things I knew before I cracked the spine, but Bach’s pitch motivated me to do things I had been putting off. Like making our wills. Can I honestly say that I value my family’s security if I don’t have a valid will in place?

I feel better about a number of things after reading and really thinking and talking about the points that were made. I am confident that I won’t be making a habit out of self-help books, but I am very glad that I finally read this one.

Garden envy

I’ve got a mild case of garden envy. Lots of the other gardeners have beautiful plots. No weeds. Huge plants.

Our plot has weeds, but not as many as it did a few days ago. I suppose the real victory is that we concurrently are finding a way to garden and be parents. Right?


My baby just flipped back to front for the first time. We were playing on the floor, and I think I took a thirty second nap. When I opened my eyes, he was on his stomach. He had this look on his face that said, “Watch out, mommy. You may not want to blink.”


This afternoon I bartered for the second time. A neighbor two streets over has six laying hens that produce daily during the summer. (She also has two rescue bantam hens and three ducks with “angel wing” that can’t fly.) We met through NextDoor, a social network for neighborhoods. We exchange a dozen eggs for a loaf of homemade bread. The eggs are delicious with rich, yellow yolks and a meatier flavor than the ones I get at Kroger. We are planning on getting chickens next spring, but for now barter is working well.

Coming home with food

Last week we got the garden back under control. Then it rained (and rained and rained). The good news is things are growing. The bad news, it’s a weedy mess out there. I hoed and hand weeded the sweet potato patch as best I could, but the mud made it a bit challenging. There is, as always, more work to be done.

The best part of my evening gardening was being able to come home with food for the first time this season. Two straightneck squash, one zucchini, one white onion, one head of romaine lettuce and a cup full of snow peas. May the summer of garden veggies commence!

Residents of the Pink Palace Mansion

Here’s my latest post on the Pink Palace blog. I love my job.

The Pink Palace Family of Museums

Clarence Saunders never lived in his pink Georgia marble mansion. In fact, he went bankrupt while the mansion was being built, and the unfinished building was given to the City of Memphis in 1926. Saunders never lived in the mansion, but over the museum’s history a couple of people have called the mansion—at least a few rooms of it—home.

The first was Julia Cummins, the original superintendent of the Memphis Museum of Natural History and Industrial Arts from 1929-1950. Ms. Cummins did not particularly like children and felt that the museum should be like a library. She had museum porters carry “no talking” signs. However, she did have a parrot. While he was painting the murals in the lobby in 1934 (oral history, 1984), artist Burton Callicott noted that the bird “would talk and make noises and just reverberate over the whole lobby.”


The second resident was Mrs. Ruth Bush…

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Baby Bingo

I’m pretty much willing to do anything to build up my kid’s library. Without overstating it, I think reading is magic. It has been a constant in my life, from my leisure activity to a huge component of what I do for a living. I read for fun, I read for work, and I read anything. I have preferences, but I really will read anything as my list of what I read last year and this year so far can attest. Reading is something that I want to pass on to my child, but it isn’t something that I want to force. You can’t force someone to like to read any more than you can force a homebody to enjoy Beale Street. They might make outward signs of compliance, but it won’t stick. We read to our baby everyday in the hopes that he will grow up equating reading with comfort and happiness. Even if he isn’t quite as rapacious as his mother, I hope that he will know the pleasures of a good book.

Part of that challenge is making sure that he has lots to choose from. I know it doesn’t matter too much right this minute, but before I know it, he will have preferences and express them (loudly if heredity has anything to do with it). When that day comes, I want him to have a fully stocked bookshelf that can take him wherever it is he wants to go. He is signed up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, one of the most generous and effective nonprofit enterprises I have come across. We did the Wheaties family challenge last fall and got him some books for when he is a bit older. In that spirit, we are doing the Memphis Public Library’s Baby Bingo program. The library does great summer reading programs–I’m actually doing the Explore Memphis program for adults–and the bingo card is the part of the program for infants and toddlers. Each time we get a bingo, we’re entered into the end of summer drawing for a gift card. When we fill up the card, he gets a free board book.

A free book for something we are already going to do anyway? Win.

You can sign up at the children’s desk at any Memphis library branch.