A Road Tripping Soundtrack

Mike and I are off to New England for our road trip honeymoon today! We'll be back mid-June, but I have plenty of posts primed and ready to go while I'm gone. And I cannot wait to share all the stories, photos, and memories made when we return to Baltimore! In the meantime, here's a collection of some of our favorite road tripping tunes. Enjoy!

This Time Tomorrow by The Kinks - A classic that I really grew to love (especially as a traveling tune) while watching The Darjeeling Limited.

At the Beach by The Avett Brothers - The perfect song for a drive with the windows down on a sunny summer's day.

Santa Monica by Everclear - Simply a classic.

Lost Coastlines by Okkervil River - A great song for both beginnings or ends. In fact, this was the song I listened to as I drove back to Baltimore after my last college final.

Life is Beautiful by Vega4 - I couldn't resist using this YouTube clip with video from African Cats to supplement the audio! Mike and I have always loved this song, and after he used it as soundtrack for some of the most beautiful video highlights from our last road trip, it has forever since been a road trip tune to me.

Road Trippin' by Red Hot Chili Peppers - The title says it all. Though this isn't the most infectious tune, it's the perfect one to listen to at the end of a long day of driving on the West Coast as the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean... or something along those lines.

What are your favorite road trip and driving tunes?


Snapshots from the Week

The adventures in gardening never cease over here! I've noticed plenty of new progress in the vegetable garden this week. My blueberry bush is looking particularly great!

I never knew that string bean plants flowered. These sweet and delicate little white blooms are flowering on all my string beans! 

Broccoli is quite the flowerer too! These cute yellow flowers are rampant all over my broccoli plant. I just don't know from where exactly on the plant the broccoli will sprout!

I've got a handful of herbs already going strong in the garden, but I decided to grow a second round. These potted guys are finally starting to show some life!

I can probably attribute all the activity in the garden to the warm sunny days following up last week's rainy drizzle. Unfortunately, summer-like temperatures are not extremely pleasant in a row-house sans central air conditioning. Poor Digby is on a hunt to find the coolest spots in the house. The high heat brings out the laziness in him!

Playing around with my camera and an agave plant that I brought back to life after an old coworker thought she had killed it beyond all hope. Love this wooden planter!

I like to have a little Christmas in my life all year long. My mom was kind enough to buy me these lovely star ornaments from a fair-trade store last holiday season. Now they bring a little touch of festivity to my kitchen all year round!

As much as I love to cook and love eggs, for some reason I have always had trouble mastering the art of the omelet. I finally got it down this week and was so proud of myself, I had to take some pictures! This delicious egg breakfast contained arugula, roasted red peppers, Parmesan cheese, and garden-fresh herbs. Delicious! 

It was also Mike's birthday yesterday so we had a nice little birthday celebration complete with Barbecue Pulled Pork Pie, Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie, and a comedy show. And after Memorial Day weekend wraps up, we're off to New England for our road trip honeymoon! How was your week? What are you looking forward to soon?


The Good Body

Eve Ensler, the woman behind the highly successful and prolific The Vagina Monologues, has compiled another collection of inspiring, heartbreaking, and insightful women-centered monologues in 2004's The Good Body. Similar to The Vagina Monologues in structure and form, this piece focuses on women's often torturous relationships with their bodies. Ensler turns an eye to women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and locales as they deal with their feelings about their bodies, corrective and enhancement surgeries, how familial attitudes have shaped their understanding of their bodies, exercise, and more.

Though it's a rather concise volume, The Good Body speaks to a much larger issue that Ensler does a great job of bringing into focus. Instead of spending time dwelling on each and every issue related to female body image, we are offered a sampling of experiences that are both universal and specific, an overview of sorts that helps round out the state of body image today. Ensler locates some of the sources of these issues while insightfully putting preoccupation with the female body into perspective.

"When a group of ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged women in the United States were asked about the one thing they would change in their lives if they could, the majority of these women said they would lose weight." Such is our obsession with how we look. But beyond this, we are fed the notion that looking a certain way will bring us greater happiness. How often have you kidded yourself into thinking 'if only my stomach was flatter, I would be satisfied' or 'if only I lost 20 pounds, then I'd be happy with myself.' Ensler doesn't attack women for these attitudes, but rather, attempts to unshackle women from them and places the whole notion of the body within a much larger context.

As Eve lets us know from the very first pages of the preface, "[this play] is an expression of my hope, my desire, that we will all refuse to be Barbie, that we will say no to the loss of the particular, whether it be to a voluptuous woman in a silk sari, or a woman with defining lines of character in her face, or a distinguishing nose, or olive-toned skin, or wild curly hair. I am stepping off the capitalist treadmill. I am going to take a deep breath and find a way to survive not being flat or perfect. I am inviting you to join me, to stop trying to be anything, anyone other than who you are."

The conclusion of the play offers an eloquent summation of how Ensler mentally tackles hateful messages about what makes for a good body. "Maybe being good isn't about getting rid of anything. Maybe good has to do with living in the mess... Maybe what I tried to get rid of is the goodest part of me... Maybe good is about developing the capacity to live fully inside everything... Our body is the carrier of stories, of the world, of the earth, of the mother."

Whether you have a great relationship with your body or one that could use some work, I think Ensler's short little consideration of the good body is worth flipping through. Rather than buying into outside ideas about what makes for a good body, Eve encourages us all to love our bodies for the good they are, rather than what they aren't. Though it may not be the first time you've come across this particular message, The Good Body may well help you understand it more than ever before.


Happy 70th Mr. Dylan!

The great Bob Dylan turns the big 7-0 today! In honor of this momentous event in the life of the world's greatest songwriter, I've decided to share some of my favorite covers of Dylan tunes since the originals are so hard to come by on the internet. The trouble with searching for these songs on YouTube is that everyone wants to be Bob Dylan so there are so many, many amateur covers to sort through... but I've searched long and hard to find the best of the best for you all. Enjoy and Happy Dylan Day!

The Fleet Foxes cover of "It Ain't Me Babe" has that trademark Fleet Foxes sound while retaining the song's integrity. Just what all covers should attain to do.

I'm slightly obsessed with Jimi Hendrix's cover of "Like a Rolling Stone" live from Monterey Pop. There are less healthy obsessions I could have musical and otherwise, right?

I wish I could hate this cover because it has gained such popularity with far too many listeners failing to realize from whom it first came. But I just can't deny Adele's talent or the fact that Dylan's voice in the original version of this song is just a bit too grating for my tastes. So here she is performing "Make You Feel My Love," one of Dylan's best love songs.

And to wrap this post up, the great Johnny Cash covers the great Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." A pretty perfect combination of two major talents, if you ask me.


A Week or Two In Review

Last Sunday (May 15th) was Mike's and my wonderful wedding day! We couldn't be happier with how everything turned out and are thoroughly enjoying our first week of newlywed life! I don't have any of the professional photos yet but here is a shot taken by one of my lovely wedding guests. The backdrop for our ceremony was just too beautiful and I couldn't wait to share it! We were married at Federal Hill Park in Baltimore which overlooks the harbor. And the sun decided to shine on us that afternoon, making for quite the scenic ceremony. More flattering and detailed photos to come!

My gorgeous bouquet hanging from the ceiling to dry out.

Cat naps. Much as I love to play with him when he's wide awake, there is nothing cuter than a sleepy Digby.

Sonic trip this week! Nothing beats their Peanut Butter Fudge Milkshake!

Finally made it back onto my bike. I cannot wait to commute to my new summer job! Here are a few shots of my beloved fixed gear Cycle Pro.

So next week Mike and I will be off for our honeymoon! We're roadtripping to New England for two weeks. Does anyone have restaurant recommendations or know of must-see attractions in the area?


Lies We're Fed, Peace, and TV Sets

I've been doing lots of thinking about the world lately. What is wrong with it and what needs to be done to improve our lot? The scope of modern day injustice is vast and seemingly insurmountable. International conflicts, terrorism, environmental catastrophe, human rights crises, economic downturn. Rape, hunger, poverty, homelessness, pollution, unemployment, sex trafficking, cancer, global warming, an increased cost of living. All of these things pose threats to the happiness, health, and safety of people the whole world over. And trying to rectify this multitude of ills, international in scope, is daunting enough to discourage even the most well-intentioned of individuals.

I don't claim to have all the answers. But I've come to a few small conclusions about the way we think about our world, our own stake in it, and our happiness. These few little fleeting seeds of ideas have taken hold and grown as certain conversations, literature, and the like have reinforced my position. And it was while reading the preface to Eve Ensler's The Good Body that I finally realized that these thoughts need be shared.

For me, a lot of these problems come down to the lies we're fed. Modern-day culture is saturated with the delivery of messages from more sources than ever in more forms of media than ever previously known. But the vast majority of these messages are sent with the same thing in mind: profit. Women are commonly afflicted with an ideal body image that is unattainable. And while Hollywood tells women that a good body requires starvation, inordinate amounts of exercise, and unhealthy standards, industrial agriculture feeds us more than we could possibly need in the form of food-like-substances lacking any nutritional value. But if we buy into both camps, we find ourselves failing. And in come the exercise gurus, diet pills, and miracle weight-loss plans. I'm not saying that there aren't other motives, some of them pure and good, that figure into any of these industries. Rather, I am hoping to turn a critical eye to the system at large and to reconfigure how we conceptualize happiness and satisfaction.

Buy buy buy. It's thrown at us when we watch TV, drive our cars, check our email, run our errands, and so much more. In fact, it never really stops. Americans are especially subject to this constant barrage of advertisements fueled by the notion that to buy is to be an American. Consumerism is constructed as a prime duty of any well-intentioned citizen. But once you've got the basics - food, clothing, shelter, furnishings, and a bit of entertainment - what more do you really need to buy? According to US culture, a whole lot. I'm not saying a nice shopping spree or trip to the mall can't be a source of satisfaction, a great way to cheer up after a rough week, or even a necessity at times. But the feeling that we have to buy, that we need to accumulate more goods in order to be happy, is one of the biggest lies we are being fed and I, once again, challenge you to think about what you buy and why.

I'm not saying that renouncing goods or opting out of the mindset that a tiny waistline makes you beautiful will solve the world's ills. But as documentaries like I Am and literature like that provided us by Eve Ensler elucidate, our preoccupation with consumption, our strident adherence to capitalism, and our individualistic value system make it increasingly difficult to tackle issues of supreme importance for human beings less blessed than our Westernized selves.

Just imagine how different our world would be if, rather than buying processed snack foods composed of nothing but empty calories, we directed our spending money towards fighting hunger? There is more than enough food being produced to feed the entire world's population. The real struggle comes in redistributing it effectively. If we focused on changing how we eat to the benefit of eaters the whole world over, the impact would be nearly immeasurable.

How about if the money we spent on a coffee once a week was put towards a charitable international organization? Though I fear I sound like those "For a dollar a day..." commercials, please hear me out. Think about how much those small little luxuries cost in the space of a single year. And think about how far a single American dollar could go in a third world nation.

Being cognizant of the messages we're being fed and how they influence our decisions and our happiness is important, both for us as individuals and as a human race. I don't expect everyone to abandon their dreams and the comfort they've worked to attain in their lives over a measly blog post. I do hope, however, to encourage people to think about the messages they buy into, about how much outside factors influence their happiness, about how much they have that they don't need. And maybe those thoughts will lead to action. Whether you put aside money in a charity fund to donate to the organization of your choice at year's end, take part in a microloan program to increase third world sustainability, participate in a volunteer travel experience, spare some change for a homeless person on the street corner, or simply challenge the notions that have become so ingrained in our heads that we rarely question them, I hope you take some time to think about why you feel how you do about your body, why you spend your money as you do, and how you can make the world just a slightly better place by refusing to accept all the lies we are fed day in and day out.

I'll leave you with this little token of wisdom from John Lennon. I think it's a pretty apt way to wrap up what I hope I've said through this post.

"If everyone demanded peace
instead of another television set,
then there'd be peace."


The Hand That First Held Mine

Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand That First Held Mine may not be the most challenging piece of fiction I've read in recent months, but it is definitely one of the most enrapturing. The novel tells the vibrant tale of two seemingly separate lives led in different time periods in London. First is Lexie, a 20-something girl leaving her family home for adventure and freedom in the city in the mid-1950s. Though she's long dreamed of escaping her roots, it isn't until a stranger named Innes stops by her house seeking assistance with his broken-down car that she finally decides to flee. The relationship between the two grows ever stronger once Lexie arrives in London and the charming Innes, editor of a small Soho-based art magazine, absolutely dotes on her, showing her the ins and outs of the publishing world and London at large.

In parallel we follow Elina, a new mother who suffered a great deal of blood loss during the recent delivery of her baby son. From the first her memory comes in fits and starts, so she finds herself unable to recall how she passes the time or gets from one room in her house to another. Her concerned husband Ted is a movie editor, tied to a demanding job but more preoccupied with the wellbeing of his wife and premature child. As they both learn to juggle parenthood with their marriage and Elina's health issues, Ted begins to suffer torments all his own.

The Hand That First Held Mine is one of those novels that tells two stories in tandem, keeping readers guessing at what ultimately ties them together. Lexie and Elina are connected in ways that you'll think you have figured out, only to realize you've been mistaken and misled. The novel becomes quite bewitching, especially by the halfway mark, earning it definite page-turner status.

Not quite a romance novel, nor pure family saga, The Hand That First Held Mine tells the haunting story of two women whose lives run very much in parallel, despite the span of a few decades' time. The thread connecting Lexie and Elina is, however, much more concrete than it first appears and O'Farrell weaves a wonderful story of it all. Though I wasn't completely hooked until the mystery began to more fully unfold, O'Farrell tells an exceedingly vivid tale that had me up until 2:00 in the morning anxious to reach the last page.


A Few of My Favorite Weddings

Mike and I just tied the knot yesterday! We're currently recovering from yesterday's festivities and basking in the early glow of newlywed life. I've got some posts scheduled during this newly-wedded week and then when we go on our honeymoon in early June, so Radiator Tunes will stay up and running even while I'm busy being a newlywed. For now, instead of my traditional Monday Week in Words and Photos post, I've got a few great weddings to share that have particularly important in helping me to shape my wedding day!

For obvious reasons, in the past few months I've been particularly drawn to bridal blogs. I'm at times inspired and at other times dismayed because of the unrepeatable beauty and originality of these weddings. I want to emulate these gorgeous ceremonies and receptions but I also think that a big part of the magic of these weddings is that they are so personal and unique to the individuals they bring together.

Nonetheless, I still am a true believer in drawing inspiration from elements that you love and I definitely did plenty of this for yesterday's wedding extravaganza (okay... it wasn't really that extravagant, that's just not my style. But it was an extravaganza in my life). Potted herbal centerpieces, origami peace crane details, and a selection of assorted pies in lieu of a cake are just a few of the details that Mike and I incorporated into our wedding that weren't 100% original idea. But when it all came together, our day was be perfectly suited to my new husband and myself, no matter where we drew our inspiration and ideas.

Anyway, the reason I'm going into all of this is because there are some weddings out there that are just too beautiful to pass up. I've highlighted a few of my favorites here but I've been combing wedding blogs for months now so I know there are plenty of weddings that I've seen and fallen in love with but have failed to include in this post. Feast your eyes on these!

This is actually the wedding that inspired me to do this post. Not only is this couple frickin' adorable, they created a great backyard wedding that I totally envy. I love the decor - subtle natural elements and a bit of sparkle here and there - and the feel of the whole day - rustic and vintage with a touch of whimsy and a whole lot of fun. The bridal party was decked out in all mismatched black and white, allowing each girl or guy's personality to come through a bit. Their cake was placed atop an old record player, complete with vinyl albums on the shelf below. Everything about this wedding is classy and romantic but still personal, a bit casual, and completely one-of-a-kind.

The first time I came across this couple I kept thinking to myself "They stole my wedding!" I'd wanted to do a backyard, DIY type reception which is exactly what Sherry and John did with style and class! Their backyard was perfect for hosting the ceremony and reception and a bunch of loved ones were involved in making their day complete. Food was primarily prepared by the couple while their parents manned the grill the day of, the decor was simple and centerpieces were very eco-friendly: beautiful lemons and limes gathered in large clear bowls. They also had a photo booth at the reception - one of the biggest wedding trends at the moment - but actually mimicked the photo-strip style for their adorable Save the Dates. They made their wedding day entirely their own, from start to finish, and I love how flawlessly they pulled the whole thing off!

I knew that I wanted to do something sustainable and useful in my own wedding - it doesn't make sense to me to make a waste of so many beautiful cut flowers for centerpieces and the like. That was why I thought about using potted herbs instead. These would still be useful and beautiful beyond the wedding day and would fit in with the blue and green color palette in my head. Enter Carrie and Eric's inspiring wedding. I fell in love with the lavender bouquets, the potted herb centerpieces, the rock place settings, the outdoor ceremony. This wedding just feels so natural and peaceful and sweet and I'm completely in love. I also dig the bridesmaids' dresses - they're wearing a bright teal that isn't too garish nor too pastel. It nicely compliments the style of the whole day.

Jordan and Nick are just the most adorable couple. Maybe it's because Jordan reminds me of Taylor Swift and has that all-American sweetheart charm. Their wedding is 100% original to me - from the altar created with vintage photo frames to the lamp centerpieces and mismatched chairs, the decor and vintage style of this wedding is truly unique. Once again, this is a backyard wedding which I obviously adore. And I think it's awesome that the bridesmaids did waitress duty. Not that I think they should be spending the majority of their time serving food but it's a nice homey touch that I find very sweet. I also love that Jordan walked down the aisle to the much-covered Bob Dylan tune "To Make You Feel My Love" performed by a friend of the couple's. And Jordan's shoes were great. So much to love!

What a bright and beautiful wedding! I love that Sarah and Jaime weren't afraid to be colorful and bold for their wedding, that they used a wild and vibrant palette and didn't hold back one bit. The turquoise and hot pink are just too much fun. I love Sarah's dress and her shoes - how her whole look is just as flirty as the rest of the wedding decor. They also kept the guest list small and I love intimate weddings. With a smaller guest list, it is easy to keep in mind what the wedding is ultimately all about. For some couples, planning a huge and extravagant wedding becomes a distraction from the reason for a wedding in the first place: their commitment to one another. And how about dessert: red velvet cupcakes and a candy bar? Now that's my idea of awesome wedding dessert options. This wedding is brimming with personality and looks like it was such a good time for Sarah, Jaime, and all their guests. And at the end of the day, I think a wedding should be a good time for the couple and their most beloved friends and family.

I promise wedding pictures once we're back from our honeymoon in mid-June!


La Blogotheque

Some years ago when I was feeling particularly inspired by the independent music scene, I stumbled upon this great little collection of YouTube videos known as the Take Away Shows brought to the world by La Blogotheque. These videos capture some of the most popular indie artists performing their songs in stripped down and intimate settings. My favorite is this video of "Oh La La" performed by the Kooks along the streets of Paris. By the end of the video, fans are crowded around the lead singer, joining in the chorus and I just wish I could have been there.

Here are a few of my other favorites from La Blogotheque's Take Away Shows collection. If you visit the YouTube site, you can find performances from artists of all sorts. I highly recommend checking it out to see if your favorites are among those captured!

PS - Tomorrow is the big wedding day! I've scheduled plenty of posts to keep Radiator Tunes up and running during this exciting but busy time... During the middle of next week I hope to be back live for a bit before heading off on our honeymoon on the last day of May!


Let the Great World Spin

"...everything in New York is built upon another thing, nothing is entirely by itself, each thing as strange as the last, and connected" according to Colum McCann, author of Let the Great World Spin. His National Book Award winning-novel is the literary manifestation of this very belief in the interconnectedness of all that occurs in the great city of New York.

McCann's story is centered around a tightrope walker who managed to suspend a tightrope between the twin towers and walk, dance, and run across. It is New York City in the 1970's and the fateful day of the tightrope walker's performance plays a pivotal role in the lives of many of the city's people, from prostitutes prowling the streets of the Bronx to Park Avenue's mothers of Vietnam veterans. (Though there was a real-life tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, who completed this feat in August of 1974, the rest of the novel is entirely fictional.)

McCann introduces us to a multitude of characters whose seemingly disparate stories are ultimately intricately linked. These connections are drawn without sentimentality, however, and all serve to enhance McCann's portrait of New York as a living, thriving organism. He touches on generosity, love, loss, loneliness, desperation, and hope - a whole range of emotions to reflect the wide range of characters portrayed throughout.

Let the Great World Spin is hard to succinctly summarize, composed as it is of fragments of multiple lives that we see firsthand for a fleeting period, then never revisit in such close proximity again. It is a brilliantly crafted work, one that perfectly balances simplicity in theme with the complexity of the content of theme. In other words, McCann never tries to make his story more than it is - a tale of interconnected lives in the big apple. But by giving life to these complicated connections, the whole narrative becomes more than just the sum of its composite story parts.

I have a tendency to religiously read any and all quotes or passages included prior to the first page of a novel upon first delving in. Rarely, however, do I revisit them upon reaching the last page. Luckily, this book was an exception to that trend. And I think that the excerpt McCann chose from Aleksandar Hemon's 2008 novel The Lazarus Project provides a very apt summation to Let the Great World Spin. He wrote "All the lives we could live, all the people we will never know, never will be, they are everywhere. That is what the world is." I don't think better words could have been chosen to provide closure for this must-read novel.


Steel-Cut Oats

Looking for a hearty, nutty, and delicious breakfast? You're in luck! We all know (and hopefully love!) good old oats of the rolled and quick-cooking variety. Well steel-cut oats are a more complete and wholesome version of the whole grain oat kernel. They take a bit longer to prepare but have many more health benefits for the breakfaster and a lot more texture and flavor.

Steel-cut oats can either be soaked before cooking or prepared dry, but the drier they come, the longer the cooking process. I didn't plan ahead very well in my attempts to prepare these oats for the first time so I did it the long way and simmered the oats in salted water for about 25 minutes (Wikipedia recommends anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes). Since these are such a filling meal, I only prepared about 1/4 cup of the oats with approximately 1 1/2 cups of water. A few stirs throughout the cooking process is all you really need to ensure that your oats turn out just right.

With a little added sweetness and whatever variety of fruits, nuts, and seeds you prefer to add, steel-cut oats can be transformed into a most delicious and flavorful breakfast to fit anyone's taste! I added some peanut butter, a little bit of agave syrup, cinnamon, raisins, and flaked coconut. These oats have a bit more bite and texture to them than traditional oatmeal, so they're a great alternative for people who turn their noses up at mushy foods. And they've got plenty of nutty flavor all on their own, so you don't even need to add toppings and such to make it edible. All in all, I'd say this is my new go-to breakfast food!


Week in Words and Photos

Aromatic and beautiful Mother's Day flowers.

Snapshot of a beautiful Baltimore evening.

For Mother's Day, our family traveled up to Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Elkton, MD. A picnic at the park and a low key hike on a beautiful spring day - the perfect way to spend some time with Mom!

Apologies for this somewhat abrupt and relatively brief post. It's been a week full of graduate assistantship interviews, Mother's Day hijinks, final wedding preparations, and awful sore throats and fevers.

How was your week?


Garden Tour

I'm a huge advocate of the backyard veggie garden. Growing your own produce is ultimately one of the cheapest, most convenient, most satisfying, and healthiest ways to get your hands on some produce. If you're willing to put in a little bit of work, you will be happily eating well the whole season through.

I'm fortunate enough to have a pretty sunny backyard with few squirrels and other hungry pests. The majority of my gardening work consists of weeding, watering, and generally keeping a good eye on my garden every day. I used some landscaping fabric and hearty mulch this year in the hopes of reducing the number of weeds to be pulled... we'll see how well these efforts pan out.

And for those of you who don't have a yard or have to deal with neighborhood pests, I highly suggest bringing the garden inside. Container gardens can add some lovely color and life to your windowsills. Plus, they keep the goodness coming at harvest time and are pretty low-maintenance as long as you keep an eye on them.

So here's a little tour of my backyard garden. Last year was the first time I ever managed a full-on vegetable garden entirely on my own, so I'm still in the process of learning from my mistakes (ie. failure to adhere to recommended distances when spacing plants) and successes (growing my own arugula!).

In the hopes of diminishing the number of weeds that jump from my neighbor's yard into my garden, I've lined the space with bricks. I'm generally into clean lines and such aesthetically so this also creates a nice edge that is very pleasing to the eye.

First up is my herb garden. At the moment it's a little sparse but I'll be transplanting other varieties of herbs (hopefully thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, and dill) after they serve as wedding centerpieces. For the time being, basil and parsley are the main staples making their way in the garden.

I am stoked about all my lettuces for this year. Last season I tried buttercrunch and arugula, both of which I loved. This year I added some spinach and romaine to the mix. I cannot wait for fresh salads and arugula pesto!

I'm hoping that last year's blueberry bush will yield some real fruit this year. It's looking pretty good so far so I'm crossing my fingers for more positive progress! I've also got a raspberry bush that I'm hoping will do well. It was a $3.00 impulse buy from Walmart so I'm a bit skeptical but I would love some bright and fresh raspberries to add to cereals this summer!

This is the first time I'll be growing string beans, broccoli, and cauliflower. I've harvested string beans while volunteering at a local urban farm so I've got some semblance of an idea of what to expect there. As for the broccoli and cauliflower, I look forward to seeing how they grow!

I'm a huge fan of sweets so I naturally tend toward fruits over vegetables. I've never grown so many fruits before but I'm trying out strawberries this year. I can already see the beginnings of one, so I have high hopes. I just am not sure what to expect in terms of output - any idea how many strawberries a single plant can yield?

Tomatoes are one of the fruits of the season that I most anticipate bringing to harvest. Tomatoes from the backyard are invariably better than the mushy variety sold in supermarkets and cheaper than the farmer's market's heirloom options. Real vine-ripe tomatoes are unbeatable and have high yields all summer long.

Peppers and eggplant are two of my favorite veggies and I love to use them in a whole variety of ways. My peppers weren't entirely successful last year - they never really grew much larger than 4 inches in height. I'm hoping for a more sizable pepper crop for 2011 and I can't wait to prepare some delicious Italian dishes with these two.

To round out the whole garden I've added some long neck squash. Squash seem to be one of the easiest and heartiest plants to grow. Last year I only had one plant but I had more squash than I knew what to do with! Loaf upon loaf of zucchini bread was prepared and popped in the freezer - and we're still working our way through it! Needless to say, I'm anticipating plenty of squash this year. I allowed last year's harvest to grow a few too many days (I had zucchini that were over a foot long!) so I'm planning on keeping a closer eye and plucking these guys as soon as they reach a decent size. And I'm sure they'll provide plenty of opportunities for baking so stay tuned for zucchini bread posts galore!

Do you have a vegetable or herb garden this season? What are you looking forward to harvesting?
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