summer fruit

My mother is Korean, and if you know anything about Korean mothers, you’ll know their obsession with feeding their children fruit. When I visit my mom, I’m usually leaving with a bag of fruit in hand. So it’s no wonder that the bounty of summer fruit factors heavily into my summer eating. You can’t beat just eating them fresh at their ripest, but once you’ve gorged through mountains of cherries, peaches, plums, berries, & melons, you have to start looking for other ways to enjoy them.

I started off making this strawberry summer cake from Smitten Kitchen. It’s become my go to easy cake this year and it’s also delicious with mango. The next two on my to make list are Ina Garten’s mixed berry pavlova and summer fruit galette from David Lebovitz.

I make this big batch of brandied cherries each year and freeze them. These little ruby red gems are fantastic in a Manhattan or an Aviation cocktail, spooned over ice cream or sponge cake, or even drizzled over yogurt. This peach tart from Food52 looks totally doable and I love that it gives a zillion variations. When you’re grilling on the bbq, these grilled peaches with creme fraiche from White on Rice are an easy and elegant dessert.

 
 

For a few healthier options, fruit salads are always a good way to go. After cutting up the fruit, toss with a little lemon or lime juice, honey, and chopped mint leaves. If you have leftovers add them to your smoothie or freeze it for a future smoothie. If you haven’t tried the watermelon salad from Love and Lemons, the salty cheese combined with the melon is a great combination, and these tropical coconut popsicles from Pick Up Limes are a cool snack.

 
 

3 easy healthy snacks

 
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These easy to prepare snacks are healthy and super delicious.

Date & Nut Energy Balls - In a food processor add 5 oz. almonds, 7 oz. medjool dates, 1 Tbs. almond butter, 1 Tbs. cacao powder, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, & pinch of salt. Process until everything is chopped fine. Roll into tiny balls and roll in shredded coconut. Keep in fridge to stay firm.

 
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Cacao Chia Seed Pudding - In a jar with tight cover, add 6 Tablespoons of chia seeds, 1.5 cups of plant milk of your choice, 2 Tablespoons of maple syrup, 1 Tablespoon cacao powder, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, & a pinch of salt. Cover tightly & shake until well combined. Let it sit for a couple of minutes and then shake again to make sure it’s well mixed. Put in refrigerator for a couple of hours. Serve with berries, shredded coconut, or sliced bananas.

 
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Almond Butter & Banana Toast - Spread almond butter on a slice of hearty toasted bread. I like to mash the banana first in a little bowl with a fork before I add it on top of the almond butter. Add a small sprinkle of flaky sea salt.

~ enjoy! xoxo Kai

spring '19 garden notes

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The garden blogs I read are just bursting with enthusiasm. So many different types of beautiful gardens all around the world and for those experiencing spring, you can hear the excitement in their posts. Hawaii has similar weather all year long, but if you pay attention, you can see the different seasons and changes in the landscape. The mango and avocado trees all around town are exploding with flowers and soon they’ll be heavy with lots of fruit.

A couple of weeks ago I planted two Thompson seedless grapevines. It’s pretty experimental as grapes usually like more chill but fingers crossed. The limes and myer lemons are abundant and getting squeezed on just about everything we eat and drink around here, and the papayas are in season. Tatsoi is a mild green that’s been growing super well this year because of the colder than usual winter and harvesting them is like picking a giant bouquet of greens. The surinam cherry has started to fruit. They look like tiny red pumpkins and I pick a small handful every couple of days, eat a few for their high vitamin C content and then throw the rest into the freezer until I have enough to make a small batch of jam. It’s a tart jam, almost like cranberries which is wonderful with chicken or pork.

My garden is small and it’s very hilly but I’ve got every square inch planted with something and it’s fun to experiment with different plantings and see what works. The poha berries (also called ground cherries) never do well but I keep planting them for the couple of handfuls I get each year. It made a delicious salsa spooned over grilled fish.

The eggplants and tomatoes were just transplanted into the raised beds, along with perilla and the ever present kale. I also started a few plants from pineapple and a pomegranate fruit that I bought at the grocery store and it will be interesting to see if they actually bear fruit. Whether you have a pot on a window sill or an acre to farm, happy spring gardening.

weekend cocktail- greyhound

Citrus is in season and one of my favorite ways to enjoy grapefruits are in a Greyhound. Simple and delicious. There are also lots of variations if you want to fancy it up but I love it as is, so that you can enjoy the tart, sweet taste of the grapefruit.

1.5 oz. vodka or gin

4 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

Fill an old fashioned glass with ice, then add the vodka and grapefruit juice. Garnish with twist of lemon or lime. If you salt the rim, it’s a Salty Dog. Add 1/2 oz. of Campari and you have an Italian Greyhound. Enjoy!

 
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my magic morning smoothie

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i’ve had this smoothie for breakfast every morning for years. i’ve experimented with different combinations and this ticks the boxes of healthy, delicious, and easy. now it’s going to look like it’s a complicated long list but I’ll explain how to get it streamlined so it comes together very quickly. it’s chock full of healthy ingredients and keeps me full until lunch. i also like that i don’t have to think about it and as a result i’m not tempted to eat other things, that may not be so good. i use a magic bullet so that each person can personalize their smoothie but you can certainly make larger batches in a blender. next to each ingredient I put a note on how to streamline it. you’re not going to believe how much goodness you can pack into breakfast. Enjoy!

Dry Ingredients (i keep all of the dry ingredients in a basket and just pull it out each morning)

protein powder of your choice

1 tablespoon psyllium fiber (helps keep us parkies regular & also keeps you full until lunch)

1 teaspoon cacao nibs

1/4 teaspoon matcha green powder

1 teaspoon hemp seeds

1 tablespoon almond or peanut butter

Frozen Ingredients

handful of berries (i purchase a big bag from costco)

half a banana ( buy several bunches, peel them, break them in half and put them in a ziploc in the freezer)

1 small piece each of ginger & tumeric root (i buy large pieces and slice them into 1/2 inch pieces, throw them in a ziploc in the freezer. you can also read my post about growing them)

kale, chard, or spinach ( the brilliant hack on this is i purchase a large bag of prewashed fresh leaves at costco and i put the bag directly into the freezer. when you put them in the smoothie, they crush easily like potato chips, keep your smoothie cold, and you don’t have to worry about using it up before it spoils!)

put all the ingredients into your blender, fill with cold water and blend. if you’re using fresh and not frozen fruits and greens, add a couple of ice cubes before you blend. so in the morning you just pull out your basket of pantry items, your frozen items, whip it together and you’re ready to go. part of the hassle of a smoothie is always trying to have the fresh fruit and greens on hand so freezing them makes it easy.

~do you have any good smoothie tips? i’d love to hear them!

ginger & tumeric - garden notes

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time to harvest the ginger and tumeric. i love growing them because they are so easy to grow in pots and the time window to harvest them is flexible. you can see from the photos below that the leaves are dying and the plants look shabby which is just you want, because that means they are ready to harvest. to plant them you take a knob of either one that looks healthy and cut the little fingers off making sure that each piece has a little bump on it which is where the new sprout will grow from. i put 4 or 5 pieces about 2 inches below the soil in each pot and put in an area that will get good sun. keep well watered and i add an inch of compost to the top of soil each month and that’s it. it grows year round here in hawaii but if you’re in a climate that gets chilly, you’ll want to plant in the spring and they’ll be ready to harvest at the end of the summer. it does take 5 or 6 months before you can harvest but well worth it.

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here are the knobs after i’ve taken them out of the pots and cut off the stems. the ginger seems to always be more prolific and although it doesn’t show up in the photos, it looks spectacular with little pink young shoots at the ends, and when you break a piece in half, the smell is wonderful even with my loss of smell. it has a sweet and spicy smell at the same time.

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then i break them into pieces and scrub them clean. since they are so fresh, the skin is thin so you don’t need to peel them. i like to slice them into little half inch slices and i put them into ziplocs and into the freezer they go. i pull out a few pieces when i need them and sit them on the counter, and they defrost in just a couple of minutes.

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for my morning smoothie they can go directly from the freezer into the magic bullet. they are also delicious chopped and added to curries and stir fries. i also simmer the ginger to make tea. there is lots of information about how both tumeric and ginger and their health benefits and there is even some research being done to see if it can help with parkinson’s. happy gardening!

easy slow cooker applesauce

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this is an easy and healthy snack or dessert that’s great for adults and kids. i used granny smith apples because their tartness balances out the sweet. it’s great on yogurt with a sprinkle of granola or nuts, warm oatmeal, or ice cream. enjoy!

6-8 granny smith apples, cored & cut into quarters

1/2 cup apple juice or cider

3 Tablespoons sugar or honey (i used coconut sugar but any sugar will do)

sprinkle of cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

pinch of ground cardamom (optional)

add all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and mix together. put on high and check after 2 hours and mash with potato masher or inversion blender into big chunks. Cook for another 1 to 2 hours checking after each hour and mashing to your desired smoothness. Add a little additional liquid if needed each time you check on it.

losing your sense of smell & taste

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one of the potential symptoms of parkinson’s is losing your sense of smell, which in turn lessens your sense of taste. foods become more bland and not as interesting. my coffee in the morning used to be an incredible experience of smell and taste first thing in the morning and although i still love the experience that comes with coffee and my morning routine, the coffee itself is definitely not as flavorful as it used to be.

as i’ve mentioned in a previous post, it might also be contributing to why my sweet tooth has increased. my taste buds might be seeking more extreme flavors to get satiated. so it can be easy to go overboard with salt or sugar while cooking without knowing it. so here are few things that can help boost the flavor quotient of food.

  1. vinegar & lemon juice - both of these can bring an extra depth of flavor to most dishes. you can add a tablespoon of vinegar during cooking or at the end, but use fresh lemon juice at the end of cooking to keep the flavor bright.

  2. citrus zest - aside from the juice, the zest with all the oils adds a wonderful intense citrus flavor. zest the fruit first and then juice it.

  3. spices - you can go in so many different directions with just the use of spices. spice blends are also a great. i have been loving sumac lately.

  4. herbs - fresh or dried they can add tremendous flavor to foods. if you can have a few pots of them growing, even better. something as simple as a large handful of chopped mixed herbs in an omelet can elevate the dish to something special.

  5. condiments - mustards, hot sauces, ko chu jang, harissa, & miso are all great ways to add an umami bomb of flavor.

  6. bitter vegetables - radicchio, endive, broccoli rabe, and mustard greens. adding these to salads, soups, stir fries can add a pop of interesting flavor.

  7. pomegranate molasses - this used to be an exotic ingredient but now can be found in many grocery stores or online. it’s thick and has a sweet and sour flavor and is delicious. add a spoonful to your vinaigrette, drizzle it over roasted vegetables, or brush it over cooked meats while they are resting.

    many of these spices and condiments will last for a long time, so i have a ton of them in my fridge. that way i can cook simply but change the direction with a different spice. i can pick up a package of chicken thighs and pan fry them with a mustard sauce, or smear them with a ko chu jang sauce and bake them, or simmer them in a curry sauce.

    have you started losing your taste and smell and if so what are some other ways that you add flavor to your foods?

    ~kai

ratatouille & goat cheese dip

this is a delicious and healthy appetizer originally from food and wine magazine. the leftovers are great over toast or pasta. trying to squeeze in as many veg as i can this holiday season. enjoy!

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from food & wine

ratatouille and goat cheese dip

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced

  • Kosher salt

  • One 1 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme

  • 2 large red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 1 medium yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 1 pound medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice

  • 1/4 cup chopped basil, plus more for garnish

  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

  • Freshly ground pepper

  • 3/4 pound fresh goat cheese

  • Assorted chips and crackers, for serving

How to Make It

Step 1    

In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, garlic and a generous pinch of salt and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. Scrape the onions and garlic into a large bowl.

Step 2    

Wipe out the skillet and heat 1/4 cup of the oil in it. Add the eggplant and thyme and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes. Scrape the eggplant into the bowl with the onions. Repeat with the red pepper, zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes, cooking each vegetable separately in 1 tablespoon of oil with a generous pinch of salt until just tender and lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes per vegetable. As they are cooked, add the vegetables to the bowl of onions and eggplant. Stir in the chopped basil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.

Step 3    

Preheat the oven to 350°. Spread the goat cheese in the bottoms of 2 small baking dishes (about 1 quart each). Spoon the ratatouille on top, cover with foil and bake for about 25 minutes, until hot. Top with more basil. Serve warm with chips and crackers.

Make Ahead - The ratatouille can be refrigerated for up to 3 days before making the dip.

~kai

november garden notes

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“Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes.” – Unknown

ahhh the garden in october. the veg beds are slowly coming in. i tried zucchini again this year but had to pull them because they were overly infested with aphids. i think i’ll have to give up on zucchini and cucumber, between the powdery mildew and aphids it just doesn’t work in my humid climate. the chard and tomatoes are doing well along with the various herbs.

the rainbow ti plants just ended their gorgeous bloom which attracts tons of nice buzzy bees, so it’s about time they get a trim. the agapanthus and hilo beauty plumeria tree are ready to lie low for the winter. the plumeria flower is a deep dark maroon color and is in front of the house. over the years i’ve had several people who were driving by stop and ask if they can have a cutting because the color is so stunning. i’m also thrilled to see the two strawberry guava plants that i started from seeds a few years ago have a few fruit flowers starting! each fall i put an inch layer of compost throughout the entire garden and over the grass and it slowly absorbs into the earth, so by the time spring arrives the plants are ready to burst into summer. it really helps my heavily clay soil.

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the papaya tree has a handful of fruit starting and the lilikoi (passion fruit) has made a comeback after it’s near death and has a couple of fruit starting. lastly the little potted lemon verbena keeps on chugging. i snip off the leaves and brew tea with a little added honey which is wonderfully soothing. between the tea and the chirping of the birds, all is well in my little garden.

kale quinoa bites

recipe from  101 cookbooks

recipe from 101 cookbooks

another delicious and healthy recipe from heidi swanson at 101 cookbooks. these dense little nuggets are great for breakfast, lunch, or snack and are highly flexible. they are almost like a frittata but with the quinoa it makes it a whole little portable meal. i made them as the recipe called for but also made them with leftover roasted squash and queso fresco. this is a great way to use the bits and bobs in the fridge. one more thing, i didn’t add the breadcrumbs and it turned out great without it. thanks heidi for another fabulous recipe!

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let’s eat ;)

 

edamame (soybean) hummus

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this is a riff off of chickpea hummus. it’s a beautiful vibrant green and the flavor is lighter and fresher. it’s a great snack or appetizer, also delicious smeared on toast or in a sandwich. aside from this hummus, soybeans in the pod are also a favorite snack in hawaii with a glass of wine or beer. it’s sort of the local version of boiled peanuts. for the hummus you’ll want to start with the shelled version.

edamame (soybean) hummus

2 cups shelled soybeans, cooked

1 clove of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon tahini

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice

salt

pinch of cayenne pepper

put the soybeans, garlic, warm water, olive oil, tahini, pinch of salt, & cayenne into a food processor and blend for a good 3 or 4 minutes. add the mayonnaise and lemon juice and blend for another minute. you want it to be nice and fluffy. taste and add more salt if needed. serve with raw vegetables, crackers, pita bread, sweet potato chips. enjoy!

boy am i getting a sweet tooth

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i wasn’t really a dessert person growing up. yes i enjoyed sweet things occasionally but didn’t seek them out. but man has that slowly started to change over the last couple of years. then i started seeing articles popping up about parkinson’s and whether it increases you’re wanting sweet things. i don’t know if it’s true or not but one of them mentioned that since many of us with parkinson’s lose our sense of smell (which in turn lessens our sense of taste) that we might be seeking things with a sweeter flavor to compensate.

in any event, each night after dinner, i could really use a piece of cake, or pie, or ice cream! but i try to eat pretty healthfully so i had to figure out a strategy to reign in the beast and here is what has been working for me so far.

some people can have a bag of potato chips in the pantry and eat a few with a sandwich and put it back until they feel like it again. in my case, the bag of potato chips calls my name everytime i’m in the kitchen and i will eat potato chips every day until they are gone. but i know that about myself, so i only buy potato chips when i plan on eating them for a particular meal and purchase only enough for that meal. for me, out of sight out of mind so that goes for sweet things as well.

the next thing is i try to have sweet things only if i make them myself. that slows me down because although i want cookies everyday, i’m not going to bake them everyday and if i do bake them, i keep some for myself and give some away immediately. you’ll also be making a friend :)

the next line of defense is i do have dark chocolate in the house all the time. it’s very dark and strong so you really don’t want to each much, but a couple small squares in the evening is in most cases enough to keep the wolves at bay.

lastly if i do have leftover dessert, i wrap them into individually servings, freeze them, and put them in an extra freezer i have in my storage room. silly as it sounds, just having them removed from the kitchen helps me slow down and gives me one more opportunity to pass on them.

those of you that don’t have a sweet tooth are probably laughing but as i’m writing this i’m thinking of when can i make these salted butter & chocolate chip cookies. if you have any good strategies i’d love to hear them. XO Kai

favorite cookbooks

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i heard ina garten on milk street radio this morning and happy to hear she has a new cookbook coming out this month called cook like a pro. ina has been an enduring favorite of mine. her relaxed style and serene home, make you wish she’d invite you to her gorgeous east hamptons abode and sit at her counter while she cooks for you and her husband jeffrey. her recipes are pretty simple but stylish and her cookbook covers are also super comforting to see. i just love to see their bright colors and stripes sitting on the bookshelf.

ina owned a very popular specialty food store in east hampton called the barefoot contessa in the late 70’s and 80’s. she went on to do catering and from there started writing cookbooks and her tv show which is the oldest running show on the food network. she has 11 cookbooks in all but here a few of my favorites and links to a couple of recipes that i’ve made over and over again.

Barefoot Contessa at Home - whiskey sours her drink recipes are great for parties

green herb dip - simple but delicious dip with veggies

chicken salad sandwiches & chicken salad veronique- chicken and tuna salad need to make a comeback! classic

lamb kebabs with couscous - the only recipe i could find online doubles the recipe in the book, so just half each ingredient if you don’t need to feed a large crowd.

Barefoot Back to Basics - tuscan lemon chicken - great for fall barbecue

company pot roast - another classic

Barefoot Contessa Family Style - parmesan chicken -i’ve made this a ton and it’s great with company because you make it ahead of time, keep it in the lowest oven setting and just plate with a salad when you’re ready.

Ina Garten Make it Ahead - crunchy iceberg salad with creamy blue cheese

Cook Like a Pro - this is her new cookbook coming out this month and this is a sneak peak recipe from it that i can’t wait to try. cauliflower toasts

september garden notes

it’s still in the high 80’s here in hawaii and this year has been a hot wet one. the veg garden has been minimal this summer because of all the traveling we did this year. so i have some seedlings that i’ve started and waiting to get a little bigger before i transplant them into the raised beds. chard, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, & lavender. there are always a few herbs around. right now its basil, green onions, garlic chives, parsley & thyme.

the year round heat and humidity can make it tricky to grow things here, but what you can grow, many times can be grown all year long. the humidity makes for tons of bugs and viruses, and i don’t use any chemicals in my garden, so i use the planting method called “half for me & half for the bugs,” and try not to stress about it.

the ginger and tumeric are doing well. the leaves are just starting to turn yellow which is a sign that they should be ready to dig up soon. i keep a little of both each year to replant and are just the best in my morning smoothie. the figs i’m still trying to figure out. they are in pots because i don’t have the yard space to let them grown into trees. they were struggling at first but seem to be coming in a little better and there are even a dozen or so fruits starting. i need to do a little research on how to net the plants so the birds don’t get the fruits before we do.

i see four papayas coming in and the lime and myer lemons are also doing well. the lime seems to do much better and i’ve getting them year round which is great for my friday cocktail hour! all is well in my little garden. for me gardening is meditation, exercise, and a lesson that it’s never perfect and complete, but always worth enjoying in the moment.

healthyish cookies

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these are quite possibly the ugliest cookies ever made. although i enjoy cooking, baking has always been a big challenge for me but stick with me.

as time goes by, i’ve gotten more and more of a sweet tooth. i’ve recently read a lot of people with PD saying the same thing. i usually have a small piece of dark chocolate and sometimes fruit in the evening which most of the time can hold back the dam. but i’ve started looking around for some alternatives that i realize may not “healthy” but at least have a nod towards a few better ingredients.

these are it. they are called lalo’s famous cookies from gwyneth paltrow’s cookbook called my father’s daughter. they are very simple, with few ingredients, and have a not to sweet and nutty flavor to them. in the book, gwyneth says she has even let her kids eat them for breakfast! i halved the recipe and it turned out fantastic.

lalo’s famous cookies

4 cups barley flour

3 cups raw whole almonds crushed in a food processor (20-30 seconds)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup canola oil

1 cup maple syrup

your favorite jam

preheat the oven to 350 degrees. combine all the ingredients except for the jam together in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Form into tablespoonful balls and space them evenly on 2 cookie sheets. using your index finger, make an indent in each cookie. fill each indent with a small spoonful of jam. bake until cookies are evenly browned, about 20 minutes (ovens differ, i had to bake mine about 30). let cool before eating. delish…

beauty without trying

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sometimes it doesn't take any effort to grow something beautiful. when i was in real estate, i would put orchids in homes i was selling as part of the staging. then one day when the flowers died, i took the bare plants home and and crammed them into holes in the lava rock wall that runs along the walkway to my house. i spray them with water whenever i get a chance but that's about it. and voila!

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it's funny how i try so hard to take care of some of the plants in my garden, and the one i ignored the most needed no help at all. hope you're keeping cool this summer!

subtle season changes

when you live in a climate like i do in hawaii, it's easy to let the years go by without much reference to the seasons. i recently listened to a podcast where the host remembered the books she read last summer because she remembered it was at the beach, which meant it was summer. well when you live in hawaii, that could be any day of the year (i know, i'm not complaining :).

in the past i was so busy that i didn't really notice, but now that i'm enjoying the slooooow life, i've been trying to notice the small changes that do happen, even in our climate. the wonderful thing is that certain patterns of memories evolve with the marking the seasons. here are few beautiful blooms in our little island garden.

 

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the crepe myrtle is bursting with blooms. when we first moved in many years ago, it was a dying little plant and i had no idea what it was. i don't see many crepe myrtle in hawaii but i have ended up falling in love with gorgeous plant and look forward to seeing in bloom right outside my living room window. we are going on a road trip in a few weeks and can't wait to them in charleston s.c. and savannah georgia.

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i wasn't expecting any mangoes this year as i pruned the tree pretty hard early this year and thought it wouldn't have much energy for fruit, but there is a cute little bunch. i do notice they are smaller than they normally are. this variety is called hayden and it's round with lots of sweet delicious flesh.

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the torch ginger seem bloom all year long but in the summer the plants seem more lush and full of flowers. these are great for arrangements because they last quite a while.

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the agapanthus wasn't getting as much sun as it needed so in the past it didn't bloom too much but this year it's going great. i don't know what type it is. it's smaller than the other type i have so it might even be some type of lily. if you know please let me know in the comments.

hope you're enjoying your summer and i'd love to see the signs of summer in your part of the world!