All That...and a Bag of Chips

Feet up? Check. Iced tea in hand? Double check. Whew! Can I just say what a week this has been?!

It's been hot. Really hot. Hot, hot, hot! Mid-90's every day this week...and it doesn't turn Summer until Saturday. And humid...don't forget the humidity. It's the kind of week that you'd like to take up permanent residence over the air conditioner vents. But, there were too many places to go, things to do, and people to see.

First thing Monday morning, Mr. T and Missy M (who is spending her weekends with us) headed to Charlotte. She was flying out to New Orleans (via Detroit, if you can imagine!), for the week, and he was dropping her off at the airport on his way south to Greenville, SC.

Tending the gardens occupied the first couple of days for me. Much is required during this time of the year, as you can probably imagine, with all the warm season crops in. The difficult part is the constant and oppressive heat. We expect this in August, not June. (I've posted an update about the gardens over on our garden blog, Gardening with the Giants. Click here to go there.) I usually try to follow my maxim of "Noon or ninety, whichever comes first," but I'm afraid I couldn't tow that line this week. Too much to do to give up a half-day.

I headed out to the Extension Center on Wednesday for our Master Gardener annual picnic, taking along a pasta salad that I dubbed "Going to the Garden Party Pasta Salad.*"  The theme for the picnic this year was Eating Local, with NC BBQ and sweet potatoes taking center stage. Many of the ingredients in my pasta salad were about as local as you can get, since they had indeed come straight from our HPNC kitchen garden, harvested on Tuesday. Even the lemon that provided the juice (see recipe below) came from my Meyer Lemon tree on the deck! Here's a snap of the finished product...and yes, those are nasturtiums on top. Yes, they are edible. 



Did I tell you it was hot this week? O. M. G. It was hot at the picnic, too. But we had a grand time together, topped off with the release of 50 monarch butterflies to mark the dedication of the Pollinators Garden and the new Monarch Waystation. More photos for you:






Thursday was all about catching up with paperwork, housework, and laundry. And on trying to reload my body with fluids...and salt. After sweating bullets at the picnic, I was craving salt, big time. I fairly attacked a bag of baked BBQ potato chips...even though they are not my faves. Did the best I could on all counts, since I had a fun day on the docket for Friday.

We had planned an EMGV Advanced Training trip to the J. C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, and we weren't going to let a little ol' heat wave get in our way. We were participating in the Landscape Color Field Day, as guests of the Arboretum and the North Carolina Commercial Flower Growers Association. Oh yeah, Master Gardeners live for stuff like this! Still more photos for you, with a few of my personal favorite flowers:











Meanwhile, Mr. T had been to DC and back (I know...he started in SC...what can I say?), just in time to head back to Charlotte to pick up Missy M on Friday evening. What was she doing in NOLA, you ask? Well, she went with several new colleagues to do their in-store restaurant training at a Popeye's there. Of course, you can't go to The Big Easy without a few taste-tests of your own, can you? Here's a shot she sent of Bourbon Street from their restaurant and a pic of her last dessert at Cafe du Monde...the New Orleans Classic, beignets. 





All of that beings me back to another weekend...back in the gardens...and back to the reason I've got my feet up and my hand wrapped around a cold glass of iced tea. With another bag of salty chips in the other hand. What can I say? Gotta get ready for another hot week ahead, don't you know?

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*Going to the Garden Party Pasta Salad Recipe

1 box Tri-Color Rotini pasta, prepared per box instructions
1 large bottle Creamy Italian Dressing
Fresh oregano
Fresh basil
Fresh chives
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 cup Dijon mustard, more or less (I like more...you may prefer less...:)
1 cup green peas, blanched
1/2 large red onion, finely diced (save the rest to thinly slice for decoration)
1/2 large green pepper, finely diced
1 hot pepper, finely diced (opt.)
4-5 small carrots, finely diced
Fresh broccoli, trimmed and washed
1 cup cooked ham, cubed
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, small cubes
1 small jar pimiento pepper, drained and diced
Fresh ground pepper and seasoned salt to taste
Nasturtium flowers, onion rings, and more fresh herbs for decoration

1. Prepare pasta per package directions. Put prepared veggies in a colander, and pour hot pasta and water over top to "cook." Drain, then wash under cold water to cool.
2. Combine Italian dressing with fresh herbs, adding as much fresh oregano, chives, and basil as you like, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard. I even add a bit of Ranch Dressing, for added creaminess. Reserve 1/2 of this mixture for later.
3. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 of dressing mixture with other ingredients.
4. After mixing thoroughly, chill for several hours or overnight.
5. Since the pasta will absorb the dressing, add the reserved dressing and more seasonings to taste before serving. Top with edible decoration, such as nasturtium flowers, fresh herbs, and thinly-sliced red onion rings. Enjoy!

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