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<<Featured Image: I decided to bake myself a birthday cake. Chocolate cake with a Nutella buttercream icing. It hit the spot.>>


This past week was that time of year again where I advance the number on my age. So far this year, all of my family has had to celebrate their birthdays in Covid quarantine. I wonder how many more birthdays we will have to celebrate like this? I’m pretty sure everyone with a birthday for the rest of the year will be doing the same thing.


In years past, we had been going to Leavenworth, WA, for a three-day weekend on my birthday. However, Linda and I were at home celebrating this year. So the day before my birthday, I baked myself a birthday cake. I hadn’t baked a layer cake in many years, so I don’t think the contestants on the Great British Baking Show have anything to worry about from me. But it tasted delicious, and was an easy way to add a bit of excitement to the festivities.

Since one of my favorite things is cooking (and eating), this birthday was kitchen/food-themed, as most of mine are. I got some handy little gadgets for the kitchen and grill, but one present from my sister and her partner stood out most because it was something I had wanted for a long time.


This special gift is a cookbook by my absolute number one favorite chef, Vivian Howard. She is from Eastern North Carolina, about two and a half hours north of where I used to live in Lumberton. I went to college just a few miles away from Kinston, where her restaurant is located. I actually did my student teaching in that same town, so I know what the area is like. In case you haven’t heard of Chef Vivian or seen the PBS series “A Chef’s Life,” (<<link) here’s a little background. She grew up in the small community of Deep Run, and longed to escape the country for the big city while she was growing up. Eventually she made it to New York City, where she met her husband while they were working at the same restaurant. Her parents, still living back in Deep Run, offered to open a restaurant for them in Kinston if they would move back home and run it. And so the upscale restaurant Chef & the Farmer (<<link) was opened.

Chef Vivian specializes in highlighting dishes created with local ingredients indigenous to the area of Eastern North Carolina. This means lots of butterbeans, peas, leafy greens, barbecue and other dishes of “porky goodness,” cornbread and biscuits, and all kinds of locally-grown vegetables and farm-raised animals.

Her cookbook is a delight to read as it is a fusion between a memoir and a cookbook. The pictures are gorgeous and will make you drool all over the pages if you aren’t careful. I have already picked out a few recipes that I want to try at some point. My only problem, being here in the Pacific Northwest, is going to be with obtaining the proper ingredients. Since it is summer and there are more choices available around here now than in the winter, I might be able to improvise if I can’t find the exact ingredient. I would love to give this cookbook the “Julie & Julia” treatment by cooking my way through it recipe-by-recipe, but I am afraid I don’t have that kind of dedication. Whatever happens, I am thoroughly enjoying reading this book, and I will report in the future on any recipes that I do actually end up making.

As a special treat to myself, since it was my birthday after all, I grilled myself a nice big ribeye steak for supper that night. The tiny little sausage on the grill in the picture below was Linda’s, as she is not fond of steak. Rounding out the meal were some grilled turnips for me and a grilled bell pepper for Linda. Alongside we had a salad using our lettuce & kale from the greens bed.





It is now July and I am still waiting for the really hot weather to arrive. We did have a few days of very warm temperatures, and one even made it all the way up to 98 degrees…and then two days later our high was 72 degrees. So the vegetable garden is somewhat confused right now. Things are growing slowly and I am so impatient for them to just jump up! We’ve had quite a bit of wind lately, which doesn’t help things much because it dries everything out. Something is still chewing the crap out of my zucchini plants and cucumbers, but luckily a few are making a little bit of headway.



The only thing that is showing any ripeness out in the garden is one lone cherry tomato. I wait impatiently every summer to see some color out in the garden, and every year I imagine that it is taking longer. But when I check back on my garden journals, I find that it is usually about the same time each year. I think as I grow older, I grow more impatient. And I guess I should be very grateful that I am able to grow what I can during the summer. Especially this summer.



Summer Girl has had a busy week. Twice this past week she has come running up towards the back porch with a snake in her mouth. I was able to intercept her before she got to the porch. After she dropped the snake, I scooped him up with some old BBQ tongs and threw him over the fence. She did not seem to be too happy about me getting rid of her new plaything. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the snake but it looked like the same one each time, a small garden snake. Now she is busy resting on her laurels as a snake-catcher.


Join me every Wednesday (barring any unforeseen circumstances) for more from the Southerner in the Northwest.

Published by Peg

In 2007, my partner and I decided to pull up stakes from North Carolina, where I had lived all my life, and move to the Pacific Northwest to be closer to her family. When I retired, I decided to write a blog because I had always wanted to be a writer, but somehow never found the time for it while I was working. I figured that writing a blog would give me the chance to share my thoughts with others, and also combine my interest in writing and photography in one place.

17 thoughts on “ADD ANOTHER YEAR

  1. Delightful post, as always. I’m a July girl, too. My birthday arrives mid-month and lasts a whole week — the so-called ecclesiastical eight days, according to Hubby, although that may be just an excuse to keep having fun! This year, I’m hoping to return to an old Southern favorite, Almond Pound Cake. Rich and luscious!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. By the way, I’ve not seen any garden or garter or any black snakes around here. The black garden snakes on my childhood place in the Florida Panhandle were welcome summer hibernators under the gardenia bush outside the kitchen window. Supposedly they kept the mice population down. Is that really true, I wonder?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never heard of grilled turnips, but will be giving them a try. I think we’ve had your fair share heat and humidity here in Indiana. Makes it hard to work in the gardens, but there are things that must be done in order to have more crops later on. Enjoyed your post, and I love A Chef’s Life, too. Must be my farming roots.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Grilled turnips are supposed to be a potato substitute, so I usually eat them with ketchup! They may be an acquired taste, LOL! Next week is promising us warmer temps, so I’m hopeful.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. BTW, have you seen Chef Vivian’s other PBS program, “Somewhere South”? It’s good too, check it out if you haven’t seen it.


  4. I detest earwigs. They decimated a row of marigolds in less than 3 days! There are so many bugs out there. My spouse plants punkin each year. Last year the vines were stunning and lovely and several were eaten and the fruit were cannonballs. Took the punkin heart out of him, at least for this year!
    I made muffins for my eldest kid today. Granted, he’s a million miles away in VA, but long distance birthdays are always a thing in my house! Happy Birthday and blessings to you-

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we have more bugs this year because our winter was extremely mild for this area. And it’s really been cool/chilly so far this summer! Bring on the heat!!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I don’t think earwigs have a season. They, thankfully, were not in the bathroom or the toothbrushes before I left for the north! And I’ve never planted marigolds again! lol

        Liked by 1 person

  5. You had me from the get-go with that cake, oh, that looks good! Down home and delicious. I’ve enjoyed ‘A Chef’s Life’ and have watched it many times. “Y’all” are from an interesting part of the world. She seems able to translate the essence of her surroundings pretty well. I traveled just a little in eastern NC when my son was down at Camp Lejeune. We passed through Goldboro on the way to the base – we must have flown from NYC to Raleigh-Durham. It was a great drive and I’d love to spend more time in that part of the world. I do hope you can find (or grow next year!) some of the ingredients for those wonderful recipes. Happy Birthday!! The grilled turnips sound interesting…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If you haven’t seen Chef Vivian’s new program “Somewhere South,” try to check it out, it’s on PBS as well. The mid-Atlantic coast is definitely an interesting part of this country. Thanks for the birthday wishes, and you really should try those grilled turnips!

      Liked by 1 person

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