I’d like to share with you a story that began almost 50 years ago and involves someone who is very special to me.

Posing for the camera this past Easter.

Laurena is my cousin.  We are 5 months apart in age and grew up together in California.  From taking baths together as toddlers, spending summer vacations together, confiding in each other about boyfriends to being in each other’s wedding, she has always played an important part in my life.  
If some of you think that you may have seen Laurena before, you just may have.  

She and her family are featured in a commercial where she shares her battle with breast cancer that appears on television throughout the greater Phoenix area.

I still remember that day, two years ago on Easter, when she told me she had breast cancer.  I could hardly believe it.  How could my cousin, who I had grown up with, have cancer?  Sadly it was true.

The next year, Laurena went through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.  Throughout her treatment, she remained positive and was an incredible role model for those around her on how to face, fight and overcome something as horrible as cancer.

Noelle (me) and Laurena as babies with our mothers and grandma.

You never know what trials and tribulations that life will bring except that they will come.

Laurena has been a wonderful role model on how faith, family and friends can come alongside and get you through the toughest of trials.  I am proud not only to have been her cousin for 50 years, but her friend as well.

Has there been anyone if your life who has inspired you with their battle with cancer?

You can watch more about Laurena’s story here.

Do you go on Pinterest?

I do.

I am often inspired to try new gardening ideas or new recipes that I find.

Some of the gardening ideas are good and some frankly, aren’t.

The same goes for trying new recipes.  Some of my favorite new recipes come from Pinterest.  But, it seems that about 1/2 of them don’t turn out that great.

Still, I enjoy Pinterest and have ‘pinned’ some of my favorites on my own Pinterest page.

However, there are some ‘pins’ that aren’t any fun at all.

Yesterday, I shared with you about my son’s hand surgery.

This is what his hand looked like afterward…

He has 3 pins going through his thumb and he has a huge cast/bandage covering it all up.

I hurts me just to look at this x-ray photo.

Kai came through the surgery quite well and his pain medications seem to be handling the worst of the pain.

Thank you all for your kind wishes and support for Kai – I appreciate it so much!

Life has been quite busy, which has kept me out of the garden much of the time.

Of course, the with the hot temperatures of summer, I probably wouldn’t be spending a lot of time outdoors, regardless of how busy I have been.

I did spend some time weeding my vegetable garden last week and checking on how large my white pumpkin is growing.  However, that will probably be that last time that I do any work there for at least a week.

When I look back at the past 5 weeks, I realize how little I have been in my garden, which makes me grateful that I have a landscape filled with beautiful, fuss-free plants.

My second-oldest daughter, Rachele, surprised her brother by coming home for his birthday in late May.

Rachele is in the Navy and is stationed in California.  She enjoys what she does there, but I don’t get to see her near enough.

Enjoying Mackinac Island

The beginning of June, I embarked upon a road trip through the upper midwest with my mother (our fourth road trip).

A week after returning from our road trip, I hit the road again with my family on our annual sojourn to the cool pines of Williams, Arizona.  A bonus was that my daughter Rachele was able to come back out and come with us!

My sister, me and my granddaughter, Lily.

Along with my sisters, brother and their families, we all have a great time staying in several small cabins nestled into the woods.

I had a great time with my kids, sisters and my granddaughter, Lily.

My son, Kai

My daughter, Gracie

We spent time strolling along Route 66 and enjoying ice-cream at our favorite restaurant, Twisters in Williams.  Nights were filled with board games including a particularly competitive game of Scrabble between me and my son-in-law – he won 🙁

Today, I confess to feeling a bit glum.  Rachele left today after spending 2 wonderful weeks at home.

Kai with his niece, Lily.

Tomorrow, my son Kai goes in for another surgery.  This will be his 8th or 9th (I’ve lost count) surgery overall. 

However, unlike most of his previous surgeries, this one won’t be for his hip – it will be done on his left hand.  The doctor will be fusing his thumb joint and performing a tendon replacement.

We are hoping that the recovery from this surgery won’t be as difficult as those experienced after hip surgeries that leave him wheel-chair bound for weeks.  

Kai will have to wear a cast for several weeks though.  But, he is a tough kid and it is likely that this surgery will be a piece of cake compared to most of his previous surgeries.

You can read more about Kai and his remarkable story, here, if you like.

My garden should do just fine without me for a while.  It has been enjoying the arrival of our monsoon season and the increased humidity.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  I’d love to hear about what you have been doing!

The past couple of weeks have been quite busy with helping others with their landscapes, writing articles, keeping up with the kids, throwing a baby shower and my first television appearance thrown in to boot.

You would think that all of that would be enough to keep me preoccupied.  But, there was something else going on during those two weeks that made me very happy.

My second oldest daughter, Rachele, came home on leave for the first time since leaving for the Navy 5 months ago.

She has finished with her much of her Navy training and we couldn’t wait to see her.  

While my husband and I had seen her in Chicago after she graduated from basic training in May, the kids hadn’t seen her for a long time.

Once she arrived, the kids were overjoyed to have their big sister back in the house.  Rachele was happy that the dogs remembered her and so did her cat.

Rachele had a full schedule of seeing family and friends while she was home.  She would often return home late at night and fall asleep on the couch.

Even though she was busy, she did find time to work on her 1970 VW Bug with her dad, changing the oil.

For her last night home, we had the family over for dinner (my oldest daughter and her family).

It was rather bittersweet to see her go.  She is off to Gulfport, Mississippi for more training where she will learn navigation, survival skills and advanced first aid.  Earlier this week she had to hike through the swamp & woods to learn navigation.

Rachele will be back in 1 month for a couple of days before she heads to her permanent base in Southern California.  I am so glad that she will only be a few hours away so we will be able to see her more often when she is not deployed.

In the meantime, life carries on with my other kids and work.  But now, I have a little more time to spend with the newest addition to our family…

Meet Penny – our black labrador retriever.  


I hope you are having a good week.  

I am off to see a sick citrus tree tomorrow…

This past Memorial Day, my mother had the entire family (minus my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy) over for brunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.

As we drove up to the farm, we were greeted by the following sight…

My nephews along with my son, Kai, were selling lemonade made from the lemons from the backyard tree.

They had quite a few people buying a refreshing cup of lemonade, including my son-in-law, Jeff.

Kai and the boys were kept busy filling cups with lemonade.  In addition, they also sold homemade jam made from the peach trees.

My daughter, Brittney and Lily (my granddaughter) came over too and Lily got her first taste of lemonade.

As we entered the house, we were greeted by delicious smells of eggs, sausage, fruit and cinnamon rolls.

I couldn’t wait to finish eating so that I could go outside with my mother to see what was growing in her vegetable garden.

She was most proud of her Russian gourds.

Okay, they really aren’t Russian, but my sister-in-law brought the seeds in Russia for my mother.  You can buy the same gourd seed in the US.  

But, we like calling them Russian gourds because it sounds more fun and exotic.

Her pattypan squash is also growing well, above.  This summer squash is a lot like zucchini.  My mom plans on cutting it into small pieces and adding to salads, much like you would cucumbers.

Her sunflowers provided much appreciated shade for the garden as well as seeds for the birds.  My brother considered trying some of the seeds.

If you want to keep the birds from eating the seeds, you can place a paper grocery bag on top of the flowers.

Lots of zucchini were beginning to form.  If you are relatively new to vegetable gardening, then zucchini is a great vegetable to get started with in the summer.  They are easy to grow and there is something so satisfying when you bring a large one inside.

My 2-year old twin nephews took some time to play in the toy front end loader…

Then it was time to celebrate Kai’s birthday.  He is now 11 years old.

His favorite gift was a ‘Navy’ hat from his big sister, which we bought at the Naval base after we saw our daughter graduate.

His second-favorite gift was a huge squirt gun from his grandma.

Late May is also the time that we pick peaches from the trees.

So my mother and I headed out to pick some peaches for me to take home so that I could make peach jam.

I love making peach jam and enjoying it throughout the year.

The peaches, above, were picked from my own peach tree.  We planted it in January and I was quite surprised when it produced so many peaches.  But, I certainly wasn’t complaining 😉

Of course, I didn’t have enough peaches from my own tree, so I used those that I picked from my mother’s trees to supplement my own.

When you pick peaches, use them the same day if possible because they are so soft and bruise so easily.  I waited only one day and already had some soft spots on my peaches.

My mother taught me how to make peach jam a few summers ago.  I blogged about it back then in “A Harvest Of Peaches and Jam”


I wanted to thank those of you who left such kind comments regarding my last post about my daughter Rachele’s graduation from Navy basic training.