Posts from the “Murray” Category

The Secret Garden

Posted on May 4, 2014



Murray the Office Dog is a joy, but he also likes to eat things like bricks (pictured above) and rocks and, well, plants. This is why we had to build a fence around our backyard vegetable garden. Our dear Murray just has his own horticultural ideas, and they usually involve pulling plants up by the roots and shaking them for all they’re worth. As you can imagine, this sort of behavior is not conducive to a productive growing season.

Thus the fence…which our clever pup has also figured out how to open…which is why it is now fastened shut with a vise.

Our dear Murray, and all that.

The luxury of this fence (if you can call it that), is that it has given me a way to claim more turf for planting whatever I want. So my daughter and I have been working really hard on filling in the space, when we haven’t been telling Murray to kindly remove his meaty boy paws from the top of the bloody fence. We’ve nicknamed it the Secret Garden, because we have romantic notions of being able to hide in there once we’re done turning it into the lush and productive plot of our dreams.

Here’s a taste of what we’ve been up to…


This morning’s radish haul.


 Someday when this little bud grows up, it will be a red bell pepper.


A pea pod. These normally don’t stick around for long, as my girl eats them straight from the vine.


I’m pretty excited about these. These little spikes will grow up to be haricots verts someday.




Looking forward to the day when this vine sprouts its first cucumbers.


Kale. Of course.


Tomatoes. I would love it if they would hurry up and ripen.

Not pictured: wild garlic, carrots, strawberries, potatoes (for obvious reasons), vidalia onions, leeks, lavender, okra, canteloupe, watermelon, black-eyed peas, butternut squash and various herbs.

I’m really excited that I’ve been able to get my garden back up and running and will be updating here and there with the garden’s progress and how and what I’m cooking with what it yields.  I’ll also be sharing the ups and downs of what it takes to keep this going, through heat and through fierce red ant invasions (we had a massive one two weeks ago) and changing seasons. I hope you enjoy those stories!

In the meantime, if you are looking to start or maintain a vegetable garden of your own, here are two books that should have at the ready:

* Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew


* Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte

Do you have any other book recommendations, or gardening resources, etc that you like? Please let me know in comments.

A Spring Update

Posted on April 2, 2014

I just finished teaching a six-week class about the French for LSU’s Continuing Education. As a lifelong introvert, I knew it would be challenging (and exhausting) for me to stand in front of a group of people for a couple of hours each week, even though I’d be telling them stories about a topic that I’ve loved for as long as I can remember. But as I’ve said before, I really wanted to get better and less fearful about speaking to groups this year, no matter how bumpy and ugly that road to “better and less fearful” was. And I can honestly say that I couldn’t have asked for a better and kinder group of people a. to teach and b. to learn from as I figured out how to get my sea legs in a classroom setting. Two weeks into the class, I seriously considered bidding teaching adieu after this class was done. Now, I know I’ll give it another shot in the fall. I am pretty excited about that and will be submitting a new class description to the curriculum committee in the coming weeks.

What does all of that have to do with a picture of green beans and a trellis? Well, I had to plant the seed in my head that teaching was something I could do, in whatever imperfect way. Now that I have done that, and haven’t managed to kill anything (or, heaven forbid, anyone) the next step is to encourage this little plant to go forth and prosper in whatever way it knows how. Right now, my teaching and writing seem to cross-pollinate each other nicely, so I don’t want to mess with what seems to be a good thing.

Knock wood.

After my last class on Monday morning, I finished revising a major project, before turning my attention to the vegetable garden I started a month and a half ago. That’s where you can find the above haricots verts, as well as some potatoes and kale, eggplant, wild garlic, asparagus, Vidalia onions, radishes, carrots, tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries, among other things. We’ve had to fence off the space so Murray the rapidly growing office dog doesn’t dig it all up. And as I got to thinking about it, I started hatching some evil plans to add some fruit bushes and other things along the inside of the fence to maximize my gardening haul. My friend Karen told me recently that gardening is such a hopeful activity. I had never really looked at it that way due to my long history of killing plants. But now that I’ve had a couple of years of successes with a vegetable plot of some sort (not to mention some successes in other areas of my life), I suppose I’m willing to see how, yes, it is hopeful, and I am hopeful too. I have good reason to be.

So I’ll be sharing news and views from my garden in the coming weeks, as well as pictures of what I do with this stuff once it’s picked.

But tomorrow? I’ll put a decadent twist on a popular French snack cake.

Questions? Comments? Story suggestions? Don’t hesitate to let me know what’s on your mind in comments, or by shooting me a message on my contact page.





The Office Dog

Posted on February 5, 2014



A rare shot of Murray, also known as The Office Dog, asleep at my feet with his favorite toy pig. He’s usually trying to lure me outside to play, or forcing his way into my lap, or chomping on his quacking toy duck (also a favorite), or giving me that “Time for lunch” look with his big old brown eyes.