Tag Archives: Vegetables

It’s Gardening Thyme!

gardeningthymebannerThanks to another generous grant from the Mary Jane Berger Memorial Foundation, twelve Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh locations will be growing community gardens this year. Several locations are doing this for their second year – Carrick, Homewood, Knoxville, Lawrenceville, Mt. Washington, Sheraden, Squirrel Hill, West End, and Woods Run.  Plus, we have a few new libraries participating – Main, East Liberty (who will be experimenting with container gardening), and our pop-up location in Allentown.

Our gardens will be growing herbs and vegetables, which will be available to the community members, with extra produce going to local food banks. Some of the herbs will also be used in library programs being held throughout the summer and early fall months. Be sure to check out the events on our web site to find Gardening Thyme programs of interest to you.

Staff from each location have attended seminars to learn about creating successful community gardens and growing plants organically. But we need your help! They key word in “community garden” is community. Without volunteers from the neighborhoods we serve, our gardens will not grow and thrive as we’d like them to. Please be sure to find the library garden closest to you and let them know you’d like to help. We’ll need people to plant, water, and weed. You’ll be helping your community, your library, and yourself (you’ll likely get first pick of the herbs and veggies!).

See you in the garden at Main!

-Melissa M.

P.S. Don’t forget about the Seed Libraries at Lawrenceville and Main, if you’d like to use and save heirloom seeds!

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Starting Small

Pay attention to what you’re doing, and don’t get in over your head.” – Barbara Pleasant

startergardenMarch is coming, and with that in mind, I am already starting to think about what to plant in my garden this year. Last year I planted my first real vegetable garden, but even with friends and co-workers giving me tips and encouragement along the way, it was a daunting activity in the beginning. There are so many different gardening books/videos/classes out there, and it can be overwhelming to know where to start. Unfortunately the library is as much help as hindrance in that department–browsing the shelves in our home & garden area can be a mind-melting experience.

As a beginner, I needed a book that was simple and fail-safe. As luck would have it, I happed upon Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens by Barbara Pleasant. This is an excellent book for the novice, as it provides easy to follow garden plans with detailed instructions for what to buy, when and where to plant your vegetables, and (of course) how to care for those vegetables lovingly. It’s almost like gardening-by-numbers, which is not a bad way to start learning how to grow your own. As Ms. Pleasant points out in the opening pages of the book, “one worry free way to start your first vegetable garden is by following a “recipe” provided by an experienced gardener, and that’s just what this book provides … these gardens are practically foolproof!”

In addition to detailed garden plans, there are also special sections on everything from starting plants from seed, to the magic of mulch (I love you mulch,

Proof (from the poster)  that some books yield excellent results.

Proof (from the poster) that some books yield excellent results.

it is because of you that I no longer have to mow my lawn!) All of these sections are accompanied by simple and clear illustrations, and in some cases, helpful color photographs.

Of course, the library also offers more detailed lists of resources, on everything from vegetable gardens to composting to local organizations that can help you get started. For those particularly interested in gardening from seed, you will want to save the date for our excellent seed swap and seed saving workshop on Saturday, March 2nd.

So how ’bout you? Do you have any large (or small) gardening plans this year? Do you have any favorite go-to gardening books or resources? Share your thoughts below!

Now lettuce rest, I’m feeling beet,



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A [kind of] New Woman

I am one of those people who make New Year’s Resolutions. I try to make them realistic, but not too easy. For example, I can say I’m going to give up Indian food, Jim Beam and HBO. With nooooo problem. Because I don’t like the food, drink the booze or have cable. Done and done!


All right…

My 2013 Resolutions

One new vegetable a month*

I almost said one new vegetable a week, but that seemed way too ambitious. I can’t even think of 52 vegetables. Not that I don’t love my steady diet of broccoli, spinach, green beans, peas and asparagus, but it’s time to mix it up. To that end, here are few cook books I’m going to use to help me out.

EatYourVeggiesEat your vegetables, Arthur Potts Dawson

The art of cooking with vegetables, Alain Passard

Cooking with fruits and vegetables, Claire Llewellyn

*I will not, however, be eating any form of mushroom.
They taste like dirt, people.

Stop saying sorry

I apologize for everything. I apologize for stuff that’s not my fault, for events that I have no control over, things that have nothing to do with me. I apologize when someone does something to me! It’s stupid and doesn’t get me anywhere. These people will help me.

Manage my money better

I pay my bills on time and all that jazz. But I really should have way more expendable income than I do. Like way more. Especially since I quit smoking (2011’s resolution) and added an extra $4000 a year to my pocket money. Where is it going???

Also, managing my money better would mean I could donate more to charity, which is always on my resolution list. I’m so fortunate to have the life I have. I should absolutely be helping others in need. For real.

I signed up for  Mint.com, a website that pulls all your financial accounts into one place. You can set a budget, create and track goals and [gulp] see where your money is really going.

BehaviorGapThe behavior gap : simple ways to stop doing  dumb things with money, Carl Richards

The debt-free spending plan : an amazingly simple way to take control of your finances once and for all, JoAnneh Nagler

The only budgeting book you’ll ever need : how to save money and manage your finances with a personal budget plan that works for you, Tere Stouffer.

30 Day Hot Yoga Challenge

I am going to do 30 days of Bikram (hot) yoga, in a row, without a day off. Frankly, I think this will be the hardest resolution to keep. Because of work and chores and things that constantly interrupt my fun, there will be days that I have to go to the 6 a.m. class. In the dead of winter. Probably on my bike. From the South Side to Lawrenceville. To say that I’m not a morning person…well, this could be ugly.

I plan on starting February 1st and going through to March 2nd. Now that it’s out in the universe, I have to do it. If I succeed, I am totally buying a pair of yoga pants with bling on the butt. Because I will have earned them.

Pray for me. Happy 2013!



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A Woman’s Prerogative

Ever since childhood, I’ve disliked change. Probably because I fear it.  So I cling to routines. I’m slow to win over and I’m reluctant to try new things, until I either first research a topic to death or circumstances force the issue. Then I’m at peace with it. This is most likely why I’m child-free and why only a job loss could prompt me to leave my beloved home state two years ago. But these life-changing decisions have turned out to be good for me in many ways.

But on a lighter note, I’ve also changed my mind about the following:

1. Vegetables. As a child and teenager, I hated, absolutely hated vegetables. Not even simply lettuce and tomato could tempt me to try them and my mother never forced the issue–it’s a wonder I didn’t get really sick! But upon approaching forty, disliking meat to the point of being repulsed by it, and concern about my poor family health history, I became a vegan. It has been five years and I’ve never looked back. And now I love, love, love vegetables–my mother still can’t believe it.

Home-grown mizuna greens! Author’s photo

2. Historical romance novels. I used to superiorly smirk and inwardly sigh in disbelief–shame on me!–when  asked for those books with the sexy covers. What could be worse for your brain than those books? Or so I thought. Then I started reading my fellow Eleventh Stack bloggers’ posts highlighting some romance novels they enjoyed and decided to just try it. Bite my tongue; I’m now hooked. At their very heart are some wonderfully well-written stories but there’s also a surprising amount of history–eighteenth and nineteenth century England which, as a Jane Austen student, I love. Plus it’s all happy endings and I’ve had enough angst-ridden books in my life and women’s book clubs for a lifetime.

Sherry Thomas is one of several excellent romance writers I’ve discovered.

3. E-books. I now see the appeal of e-books. I will always prefer the feel and look (and smell!) of print books but I have found that there are some titles available in e-book format that the library doesn’t own in print. I also very much like that nobody can see (that I’m aware of!) what I’m reading, have on hold, or checking out from the library.

My Nook e-reader (Author’s photo)

How about you? Are there things you like or do now that you never thought you would?



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Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Picky Eaters*


I had to laugh when I came across Hungry Monkey: A Food-Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater by Matthew Amster-Burton, because for no explicable reason, I sometimes say to myself “I’m a hungry monkey.” Usually when I’m hungry. I also connected to the book because I consider myself a recovering picky eater. It wasn’t until I was in my early thirties before I willingly began eating beets, greens, squash, peppers, and eggplant, and developed an interest in trying new foods. I spent several years as a vegetarian somehow, surviving mostly on grilled cheese and salad (made up of lettuce and carrots). Truth be told, it was a new boyfriend who essentially shamed me into exploring vegetables, and for that I will be forever grateful. “Why do you say you don’t like mushrooms,” he asked me, “when you eat them all the time?”

I also have to give some credit to my mother, who was of the “I cooked it, you’ll eat it” philosophy of dinner. She had no pity as I held my nose to swallow zucchini, or repeated “tastes like sugar, tastes like sugar, tastes like sugar” while chewing asparagus. In my defense, she did go through a rather extreme tofu-making phase from which it is a miracle that I recovered. “Deep fried” was the magical cure for that one. Truthfully, though, I believe the tough love approach worked on me in the end, and now I am a complete farmers’ market junkie.

Ideas about parenting may have changed since I was a kid, and certainly there is a plethora of information to help if you see your children heading down the picky path. Give one of these a try:


*With apologies to Waylon & Willie.

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Eat Your Veggies

Son of Jim Norris, homesteader, tying corn into bundles, Pie Town, New Mexico (LOC) by The Library of Congress.

Son of Jim Norris, homesteader, tying corn into bundles, Pie Town, New Mexico October 1940. Photographed by Russell Lee

As a CSA member, I’m getting my fill of beautiful vegetables. If you’re unfamiliar, CSA is an acronym for Community Supported Agriculture, and Pittsburgh has a nice selection of local farms to choose from.  The idea is simple. You buy a “share” in the farm and gain boxes of vegetables and other edible items throughout the season.  Naturally, like any investment there are risks involved, such as a disappointing crop due to insect snacking or destructive weather.  Nevertheless, I love my veggies so I’m always searching for creative and new ways to enjoy them.

We have a harvest of cookbooks featuring vegetables at the library as well as a Web page dedicated to the subject of produce. One of my favorite food blogs is Farmgirl Fare which chronicles life on a farm and includes great seasonal recipes not to mention photographs of awfully cute animals (cats included).  Epicurious has a seasonal cooking section to help you figure out what to do with the 4 heads of cabbage in your refrigerator.

Grab your apron, cutting board, freshly sharpened knife and favorite veggie, and get cooking.

– Lisa

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