Life as I know It

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San Luis Obispo, California, and South Bristol, Maine, United States
Author ~ Illustrator ~ Lecturer

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bean Suppers, Pot Lucks, and my California Gardens

Summer in Maine would not be summer in Maine without potlucks, picnics, and bean suppers. I am a sucker for all these get togethers and revel in the conversations, traditions, and food we share.
Jeff carrying my offering

Last night was the Pemaquid Watershed Association Annual Meeting at the Willing Workers Hall (1897) in New Harbor. I made a large pasta salad, hey, not that original, but it is HOT here, and this seemed like the right thing. The bow tie veggie pasta in shades of orange, green, and ivory looked smashing in a wide glass bowl scalloped with a garland of garlic scapes. 
It wouldn't be a Maine pot luck without an old pot of baked beans

I don't know about your luck with making this summer staple tasty, but I've always had a problem infusing it with flavor. This time I used my big marble mortar and crushed 2 cloves of garlic in a teaspoon of sea salt, then drizzled in about 3/4 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil, which I tossed with the hot pasta.  Yum, very garlicky. Next, Jeff and I diced red onion, tomatoes, garlic scapes, red pepper, and cucumber, and tossed it with freshly snipped basil. Still a bit blah, so I mixed the zest of one lemon and about a tablespoon of seasoned rice vinegar. Not bad, but not the greatest. Any suggestions on how to make the pasta hold even more taste?

My caretaker at Sunflower House sent along a group of photos of my gardens as they look today. YIKES, I need to get in there with my shears and harvest that lavender. Oh, and I wouldn't mind a few nectarines, lemons, limes, figs, lettuce, herbs, and more. 

The tall pots past my potting shed hold the strawberry popcorn, zinnias, coreopsis, and more. The corn is now about 5' tall!

The tin butterfly bucket is in full bloom. 

The lavender beds in our front yard. Nectarine, pluots, plums and lemons.

The back 3-B garden for birds, bugs, and beneficials.

A Pismo concord seedless grape I planted from a whip three years ago.

Check out the bronze lettuce and chard in the potager.

Please visit my Lowe's Garden Grow Along post for some super container ideas.

All joys,



FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Sharon ~ Your pasta salad looks and sounds yummy.

Your CA gardens are fabulous. Look at all those purples!!! Those pictures inspire me. You have really created lovely gardens and I'm sure they are a joy to walk and work in.


Lemon Verbena Lady said...

You are the goddess of gardens, Sharon and the pasta salad and beans look and smell fabulous as well! Bonnie and I visited with Kathleen yesterday and had a fabulous time! Glad you are enjoying Maine!

Lemon Verbena Lady said...

I forgot! xxoo Nancy

Terra said...

Your California gardens are flourishing. No surprise there! Your pasta salad sounds like it turned out pretty. My dh is the one I turn to with seasoning tips and he is out riding his mountain bike. I use seasoned rice vinegar too and I am sure it tasted delish.

maggie said...

What a beautiful, comfortable garden! It must be a great joy to linger there.

I am by no means a pasta salad expert, but I do make a mean olive oil dipping sauce. My experience with that suggests you might be able to pull more flavor from the herbs and garlic by letting them steep in the oil for a while before combining the other ingredients.

One Woman's Journey - a journal being written from Woodhaven - her cottage in the woods. said...

I am with you - on the fact that my pasta salada usually taste bland. Your gardens look wonderful and I believer I will plant more in pots next Spring.

Dawn said...

Aaaah, to be bug in your garden, drunk on pollen and nectar!!

I've missed you, Sharon, and think of you often.

To gussy up that pasta salad, and any potato salad, please try COOKING a dressing. Take those crushed garlic cloves, vinegar, honey, salt and pepper, maybe a bit of mustard and some thinly sliced shallots. When it's all hot and syrupy, pour it over the cooked pasta and toss. Then add olive oil and toss again. I've found that when you use hot dressing, the pasta or potatos soak up the flavors very well! Other yummy additions to pasta salad are artichoke hearts, capers and piment.

Sending you a hug...and dreaming of summer in Maine,


Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

That garden looks gorgeous!

Hehehe, people love my pasta salad an my daughter gets the same results in New England.

The secret is to use Newman's Own original vinegar and olive oil dressing. I toss some of it immediately when I make the pasta salad (when the pasta is still a little warm) and then I toss more in it again before serving.

Although Stephanie was sleep deprived last week when she made it and put all the Newman's Own she had left in it after making it.

She said she prayed over it and it was fine. :)

Sharon Lovejoy said...

Ok friends, I will try some of your suggestions. I've never heated the dressing, relying instead on the heat of the cooked pasta, but I'll give it a try.

In answer to the 3 e-mails asking about COMFORT FOUND-LITERARY LODGING. We're making slow headway. It is really beginning to feel like home. The living room is finished and two bedrooms are done.

Kitchen and bathroom to go. We are beginning to display our antiques, stacks of books (whew, that makes it feel like home), and soon we'll begin hanging art and folk art.

This has been a HUGE job, but Jeff is one of the most steady-on workers I've ever known. Despite the incredible heat he just keeps going.

Thanks for all your e-mails and comments.

Your friend,


Vee said...

Your California garden looks terrific. I don't have any suggestions about your pasta salad other than to use a delicious vinegar. I'm hording my chive vinegar as I speak for some sort of a pasta salad. Bean suppers are great old traditions. Can't beat a good New England bean supper.

Glad to read that the business is progressing. Hope that you'll see an end to the work soon and a beginning to big blessings.

Erin | Bygone Living said...

You have such a beautiful garden!! Wow! ♥

Zuzana said...

What a fantastic post! I love the way your pasta looks and judging from your ingredients, I think it is very tasty too, even if you might not think so. And your gardens, wow!, what a sight! I love all that blue of the lavender. I wish only those pictures could convey scents as well, as I am sure it is filled with heavenly fragrance. Gorgeous, your garden looks like a perfect place to just be and contemplate.;) I bet you are missing it, when seeing those pictures.
I hope this week is a good one for you dear Sharon,

Claudia said...

Your California gardens look so beautiful, Sharon! I know you're loving Maine, but it must be hard to be away from your other gardens.


Unknown said...

Ahh yes! There is nothing like those small community gatherings at the beach! We have a list of our favorites we never miss as well! Your California gardens are lovely Sharon... no space left un tended with an inviting and natural look at the same time!
I am guilty of " bland " pasta salad too! I have used the Newmans Own Italian Dressing and that spices things up a bit... for added kick, I have also used sliced pepperoni and halapeno ( sp) cheese!

Beach Blessings,

Anonymous said...

Hello... Joyous Sharon...Oh how I know The Butterflies & Dragonflies must Dance in Your Summer Garden...along with all the Summer Fairies!...very Beautiful & oh so for your Yummy Pasta Salad...perhaps all it needs is a Pinch of Cayenne Pepper...& a Splash of Italian Dressing...& then some Lovely Parmesean Cheese...Perfecto! lol...& always Yummy! thanks for sharing Your Lovely Summer with us sending lots of Pixie~Dust your way! xoxo~Angie(Tink!) Poof!

Pondside said...

Hello Sharon - I found your blog through Pat at The Journal of Taylor's Outback. I've had such a nice look around, and will be back, because I've become a follower.

Hindsfeet said...

If these were my gardens, you could *never* convince me to leave....don't know how you do it...

: )

lovely, lovely, all of it lovely.....

sarah-jane down the lane said...

Sharon your garden looks divine. Count me in for nectarines, lemons, lavender, figs and any other Manna going!

I am planning to make lavender infused lamb butterflied for the barbecue along with lavender brulee and lavender shortbread for a family get together this weekend. (spot the theme tee hee!)

Have a wonderful week Sharon,

Sarah x

Kay's flowers said...

What can I say that hasn't already been said? It looks wonderful! Did I miss a post? Are you remodeling? I better go back and see what I missed. Have a good week.


the wild magnolia said...

Loved my wander through your garden today!

Thank you!

Marcie said...

Sharon, My dressings are usually olive oil and vinegar based, include garlic and a tiny bit of salt... as yours is. I also add loads of herbs and some crushed red pepper. For my palate, it is delicious and never bland. That little bit of crushed red pepper might make the difference.

I love all the photos of your beautiful garden! Mine is not getting a lot of attention this year, due to an impossibly busy schedule. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh, your California garden is absolutely a delight, I can only imagine what a feast for all sense it must be walking through it, brushing against all that lavender and other herbs and shrubs, all thw while chewing on some lettuce just casually picked while strolling...I love those beautiful Agapanthus peeping out the corner there..
Hope your potluck get together was fun...your pasta salad looks delicious. I agree that it isn't always easy to flavour a pasta salad. I have to admit that my hand is quite heavy on some interesting vinegar to add some zing to pasta salads..also lemon juices, a fragrant olive oil, not forgetting sundried tomato pastes, or even some curry pastes...
Enjoy Maine

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

I was reading along and thinking "lemon" which I learned from NGBFF (non-gardening best friend) Aimee. It just perks things up I think. You CA gardens look fruitful, peaceful and lovely. My garden is looking quite frazzled from a lack of water. The irrigation system broke.

Carla said...

Sharon, first I would like to thank you for taking time to stop in at my blog.

I have been to your heartsease shop many, many times in past years. I and my husband and a few of our friends would take vacations to Cambria just so I and my girl friend could visit your store. I was so inpired with the garden after one visit I went home and added an herb garden to the home we lived in then. I bought many pieces of my Portmeirion dishes in your shop along with a few copies of An Island Garden by Celia Thaxter. Each time I open that book it brings me back to my trip to your store, with such fond memories.

I am so exicited to find you at this blog and will add it at once to my favorites and link it to my blog.

Kindest regards,

Suzanne said...

I would love to wander those paths! Such loveliness.

LindaCTG said...

It's so wonderful to see your life in Maine and your darling garden in California, too! Reading these pasta ideas make me hungry. But "marinating" overnight tends to help. And that crushed red pepper, too.

Anonymous said...

Sharon, It's a bit perplexing to me how you can leave such a delightful garden. However your Maine setting is equally enchanting, isn't it? Which makes the whole deal even more of a quandary. Ah to be in too places at one time...

I use the vinegar in my pasta salad. You can also sprinkle a bit of freshly grated Parmesan or Feta cheese. Black olives, radishes and Pepperoncinis [sp?] also offer a bit of pizazz. And I've even been known to splash a bit of the olive and pepper juice into the mix. But I'm really not a cook and I'm sure your salad is just fabulous as is. I like the idea of the garlic scapes. How fun!

The photos of your California garden gave me drool. Each one had to be clicked and enlarged. Your choice of hardscape really enhances your plantings. The washtubs on the blue fence are very cool not to mention the watering can collection. [I'm a nut for galvanized stuff.] I love the grape vine. I've never grown grapes but I'm starting to wonder why. Please give a big hug to your California garden caretaker for the delightful pics.

Lydia said...

Your postings here are ALWAYS filled with cheer.

Tammy said...

I'm thrilled to have found your blog! Have been a fan for many, many years. Thanks so much for all the joy!

I add garlic cloves and Lawry's Seasoning Salt to the water I boil the pasta does seem to add some flavor to the actual pasta itself.

I also add roasted tomato to my pasta salad; I add it first thing, and toss it with the warm pasta, so the oils flavor it while it's warm.

And lastly, my husband enjoys it when I add slices of pepperoni or Italian sausage to our pasta salads.