Saturday Morning Musings – An unexpected thaw.


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Memories are quite puzzling things.  Think of it – in the time it takes to blink an eye, a memory can arise into consciousness from its hibernation – quite often unbidden – and carry with it all of the attendant emotions.  Encapsulated within that memory, one can find a range of time from moments to years: a first kiss; a concert; a friendship.

The brain is amazing!  And yes, I do believe that everything about our conscious experience can — and will someday — be entirely understood at the level of the brain, the most incredible supercomputer on offer.

“We are a way for the cosmos to know itself,” said Carl Sagan.

Sometimes, though, a memory can take hold and not let go.  That inability to let go can turn ugly — sadness, despair, anger, resentment — or it can be transcendent — love, joy, peace, contentment.

Sometimes… it’s hard to tell.

Like, thinking about an old flame.  Sure, that might be fun, even inspiring, but ultimately it’s a frustration that cannot — and likely should not — lead anywhere.

Or when gazing into the photographed eyes of a long-deceased parent — what an alien mixture of joyful longing and heartbreaking acceptance of fact.

What about pondering the demise of a friendship that ended abruptly in unexpectedly bitter words and anger?

When is it time to forgive?

In that moment — when cheeks are flushed, earlobes are hot, heart is throbbing with adrenaline and sadness, throat is raw from forcing out the vitriol — it seems that nothing could ever repair that ashen bridge.

But perhaps all is not lost.

There is nothing left here for me
Nothing for as far as my crying eyes can see
There is nothing left for me here
Nothing that’s worth me shedding another tear

Those lyrics were written while adrift in an emotional cyclone, mourning the loss of a friendship that gone painfully awry.  Every time I sing them, I still feel the sting of their genesis.

A phone call and email this week from the friend for whom the song was written reminded me: ice hasn’t always been so.  It was once water, flowing freely, refreshing and clear.  Sure, that water might be damned cold at times and not at all inviting, but as long as it’s moving, there is an opportunity to move along with it.

So, spring has finally sprung here in the White Mountains — and the thaw feels good.  I still have an eye on the snow that still persists at the shady end of the lawn, but it, too, will eventually have no choice but to succumb to the warmth.

My heart, I am sure, will do likewise.

Saturday Morning Musings – To move the heart of a child.


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For the past week, an elementary school in Wisconsin has been faithfully rehearsing one of my songs – “We All Have A Song” – for their spring concert. Under the guidance of a one Ms. G, these kids are lending their voices to the following words:

We all have a rhythm
And we all have a pulse
And we all have a song to sing
So find your heartsong
Your heart is the drumbeat
You are as strong
As the earth beneath your feet

It’s amazing to me how this came about.  I received an email a couple of weeks ago from Ms. G (an elementary school music teacher) asking for my permission to teach the song to her students.  “Of course!” I replied.

She learned the song several years ago from a music therapist in Michigan.  That in itself is pretty cool.

Then, on Tuesday, I received this message from her: “[o]ne of my favorite reactions was from one of my third graders. He is such a sweetheart and tries very hard, but doesn’t always succeed. As we were lining up while singing to the end of We All Have A Song, he looked super excited. When the song ended, he exclaimed, ‘Ms. G, I’ve never sang that good before! I love this song!’ Thank you for inspiring my kiddos.”

Wow.  How can I get an email like that and not cry?  So humbling and inspiring.

Last night was a regular night at the hotel, solo piano, six to ten.  I’ve been playing there for nearly eleven years now – holy smokes – and my favorite moments are always the ones that involve children.   Over this past decade, I’ve had many kids come up and sit at the bench with me, talk with me, ask questions, request “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and the like, their little legs swinging in the air under the bench.

Then, there are the ones like the little girl who sat at the table directly next to me last night… who kneel on their chairs while they eat, so that they can better see my fingers and then absent-mindedly put down their forks and move their finger tips on the table top, pretending, who blush when I look their way, too shy to come up and say hello.

So precious.

In my six years as a children’s librarian, I read stories, worked on craft projects, sang songs, banged on plastic tambourines, helped with homework, checked out books, collected hugs.   After much soul searching, I left that job nearly four years ago in order to go after the musical golden ring.  It was certainly the right thing to do, but I really miss working with young kids every day.  Luckily, Shawn and I live downstairs from an amazing family with three young daughters, so I get my kid fix somewhat regularly.

Those moments, when you can witness, in real time, the demonstrable positive effects of your actions in the life of a young child – is there anything better or more worthwhile than that?

I admit – as much as I love children, I’ve always been a little too frightened of the awesome responsibility of bringing a new life into the world.  And yes, I realize I’m not getting any younger, either – but I’ve never had a sense of that ticking clock about which many other women speak.  Maybe my clock was never wound up.  Maybe that sense of urgency just isn’t wired into my DNA.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this… with these words and thoughts, or intentions, or lack thereof.   All I know is that whenever I’ve touched the life of a child in some meaningful way, there is simply no better feeling.

To move the heart of a child?  That is the definition of success.

Now, if only I could be in Wisconsin to hear those kids sing my song…



Saturday Morning Musings – How to put together a homeless backpack.



So, I finally finished something yesterday that I’ve been wanting to finish for a while and I’m excited to share the idea with all y’all, in hopes that others might want to do the same thing.

A while back I saw a video on about a couple that puts together and distributes backpacks to the homeless and I was inspired to do the same.  (I blogged about it, too, which you can read here if you missed it.)

I found two backpacks for a buck fifty each at the Conway Humane Society thrift shop.  I filled them with the following items that I purchased at the following prices at Dollar Tree, Family Dollar, and Christmas Tree Shop:


1 bar of soap – 33¢
1 travel size first aid kit – $1
1 1oz bottle of hand sanitizer – 53¢
1 1oz deodorant – $1
1 roll of toilet paper – 25¢
1 toothbrush – $1
1 6oz toothpaste – $1
2 16.9oz bottles of spring water – 33¢
1 travel size pack of hand wipes – 33¢
1 comb – 8¢
1 microfiber wash cloth – 33¢
1 pair of mens socks – 33¢


1 stainless steel dinner spoon – 50¢
2 granola bars – 50¢
2 fruit snack pouches – 40¢
1 4.75oz can of Vienna sausages – 50¢
1 10oz plastic jar of peanut butter – $1
1 package of peanut butter crackers – $1
1 travel pack of Kleenex – 19¢
1 knit scarf – donated from me (I didn’t need so many scarves)


1 4oz bottle of bubbles (I couldn’t resist adding a little fun) – 42¢


All this, plus the backpack, totals $12.52 for one backpack that could turn someone’s life around, or at least get them over the hump maybe?


I have a bunch of things left over to start future backpacks. Right now, I have two complete packs. For now, I plan to keep one of these backpacks in the car until I see someone that needs one. I do a lot traveling, and I’ve certainly met people who could’ve benefited from something like this. Next time I’ll be ready.


I hope this inspires others to do the same or, at the very least, to pass this idea along.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday Morning Musings – One jelly bean at a time.


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This week, I read an astonishing book – I Am Malala – about (and by) the young Pakistani girl who spoke up for the right of girls to go to school – and was shot for it.  She and her father (an educator himself) had received numerous threats, and still they raised their voices from the Swat Valley against the misogyny of the Taliban, nearly paying the dearest price for their convictions.  The story of the attack on her life in the fall of 2012 captivated the entire world.

For what would I be willing to risk my life?

It’s a hell of a question.

In her book, Malala speaks with such passion about her studies, her competitive nature come exam time, about her love of science, her voracious appetite for reading.

She also expresses her sadness about how many young girls and women in her country – and, indeed, around the world – are uneducated and illiterate, regarded as unequal to men and boys and not deserving of the same access to education and information.

It’s amazing what one takes for granted.

As much as I also loved (and still love) learning and reading, I really didn’t like school much beyond third grade.  I was always shy, awkward, probably seemed aloof a lot of the time.  I was so uncomfortable at school, more so as I got older.  Naturally introverted, I shied away from most things social.  I didn’t have a lot of confidence.  I didn’t really like myself too much.  I couldn’t wait to graduate and get the hell out of there.

On the heels of all this, there was a very moving video on the other day, in which each day of one’s life is represented by jelly beans:

As the original pile of 28,835 jelly beans (representing an average lifespan) is whittled away to account for school, work, sleep, eating, commuting, watching TV, chores, errands, bathing and grooming, down to an unthinkable 2,740, the narrator asks a few stirring questions, including this one:

How much time have you already spent worrying instead of doing something that you love?

Boy, I do have a worry wart streak in me.  I get it from my mother.  I even worry sometimes that I worry too much.

Davy said something to me a while back that rings true.  He observed that I wear the world as a tight garment.

I know what he means, and he’s right.  I get up into my head a lot.  I do hold the world close.  It’s miraculous and maddening, inspiring and infuriating.

I think of all that time I spent worrying as a kid, too.  Didn’t we all?  Worrying about where I stood, how I seemed, what kind of mood Mom would be in when I got home, about doing okay in school.

About feeling safe and okay.

Nowadays, I worry that I might miss out on something, that some opportunity might pass me by because I’m not prepared for it, that I’ll have a dream about the most amazing song that would be a smash hit and then forget the whole damn thing as soon as I wake up.

Then, I read Malala’s book and I think, “What the hell do have to complain about?”

In the grand scheme of things?  Nothing at all.  She is a champion, a hero – and I’m a hobbyist, living a charmed life.

Time to let all that tension out of my shoulders, contemplate and appreciate that finite supply of jelly beans, and savor their sweetness.

Saturday Morning Musings – Remnants of stars reuniting.


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Writing from the road again.  This morning I am in Northampton, MA at my friend Carrie Ferguson‘s house.  She’s a wonderful soul and songwriter.  I fell in love with her songwriting at NERFA in 2012.  Her song “Paris” is an aching ode, mourning the obsession that often overtakes the mind when your lover leaves you.  The first time I heard her sing it, I was hooked.

We became quick friends that weekend.

Last night, we played a show together in Becket, MA at a wonderful gem of a place called The Dream Away Lodge.  We swapped five-song sets all night.  Attentive crowd, snapping fireplace, glowing smiles, full bellies, beaming hearts.

I tried out a brand new song last night.  “Like You’re Already Gone.”  It’s dark and it’s heavy.  The moment that I strummed that last E7 and the applause came, a man said, “Wow, is that your song?”  I told him it was.

It really got to him.

Two nights ago, Shawn, Davy and I saw The Stray Birds in Portland.  Incredible night of music.  For me, my love for them began the first time I ever heard their “Dream In Blue”.

What is it about a song?  The emotional power of just a few chords, a melody and, sometimes, some words; an instrument in the hands of a performer; voices echoing; vibrations rising in the air; ears, minds and hearts to receive it.  All of it remnants of stars reuniting.

All of us singers and songwriters are after that special bit of stardust.  Joni sang about it this way: “The lights go down / And it’s just you up there / Getting them to feel like that.”

Carrie and I captured a little bit of that tonight.  Tonight, we’ll go after it again in Portland, ME, then tomorrow night in Portsmouth, NH.

Then.. in the intervals between gigs, I’m sure we’ll each, in our own way, seek to capture that lightning bug in the jars of our hearts, kindle the flame long enough to set another heart ablaze in another room somewhere, sometime.

I love my job.




Saturday Morning Musings – Where is spring?


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It seems like everyone in this neck of the woods is asking the same question: “Where is spring?”

A year ago at this time, yes, there was still snow on the ground (as seen in this photo that I took at that time at Arethusa Falls) but this year we didn’t even attempt our-first-day-of-spring hike to the falls.  We’re waiting until some of this stuff melts – whenever that may be.

On the day of the vernal equinox this year, we awoke not to chirping birds, dazzling sun and balmy breezes, but instead to a heavy, gray sky and a fresh foot of snow in the yard.  We went snowshoeing in the woods behind the house instead.

So, yeah – where is spring?

It’s been an exciting week.  I’ve been selected as an official showcase artist at SERFA, taking place in North Carolina in May.   This is an awesome opportunity to share my work with venues, presenters, fellow performers, and to make new friends.  I’ll be traveling down and sharing this opportunity with Shawn and Davy, bandmates extraordinaire.

Just six weeks from now, we’ll be loading up the Winnie and headed south.  First to the conference, then Shawn and I continue on for a few-weeks-long adventure in the Big Easy.

This week I also received an email from a woman in Utah who wants to cover one of my songs – “We All Have A Song” – on her upcoming CD.  What an honor!

Dave said, “This has been a great week for you!  You should buy a lottery ticket!”  Ha!  The last time I bought a lottery ticket was about 20 years ago, and I won $250 on a scratch ticket.  I figured I was ahead – why push my luck?  So I stopped buying them.

With all of this snow still on the ground and all these exciting developments, I’ve been having a hard time staying focused on what’s in front of me.  I keep thinking about six weeks from now, all the things that need to be done and tended to.  I keep daydreaming about New Orleans, about green grass, about opening my bedroom window and letting a cool, sun-kissed breeze bring in some desperately needed fresh air.

“When is spring?”  As weary as I am of the endless winter, I’m equally fed up with this feeling of wanting it to be over with.

It’s time, at least for now, to shed that impatience.  Normally, I think that patience is an overrated virtue, that it gets in the way of living a full and passionate life.

When did I get in such a rush, anyway?

What is wrong with this moment?

Or this one?

My life is unfolding, petal by petal, from the tightly twisted promise of the bud.  The sun is already shining on my face.  The water is already flowing under the ice, against the rock.

It’s already beautiful.  I just have to take the time to notice it.

Spring is here!  It is always here.


Saturday Morning Musings – Add a little spice!


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One of my greatest passions in life is cooking.  I love to be in the kitchen, cooking for myself, for friends, for me and Shawn.  I wrote a while back about fridge essentials and had promised a follow-up about pantry staples – and that’s still on the agenda – but this week I’m thinking about what’s in my spice cabinet.

I’ve got a good collection going and I’m always looking for more.

If you have nothing else in your spice rack, I think these are the absolutely-must-haves:

  • sea salt
  • black pepper (freshly ground is best – so much tastier!)
  • garlic powder (for when you don’t feel like mincing fresh)
  • basil
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • crushed red pepper (for a little heat)
  • cayenne (if you enjoy a little more heat, like I do)

Soups, pasta, you name it – these few will get you through most anything.

Then there are the baking essentials:

  • baking soda
  • baking powder
  • cinnamon
  • nutmeg
  • clove (whole and ground)
  • vanilla extract
  • coconut oil
  • dried peppermint

Other leafy spices that are a must for all kinds of cuisine:

  • sage (mushrooms and sage.  mmm.)
  • rosemary
  • thyme (do you have that song stuck in your head now?)
  • marjoram (another sweet leaf – try it instead of basil!)
  • tarragon (great with mushrooms and asparagus)
  • cilantro (salsa, bean dips and fillings, Indian curry top-off)
  • bay leaves (a must for soups)

I love Indian food, so I keep some other must-haves around:

  • turmeric (bitter root – essential – stains your clothes, watch out!)
  • ginger (another essential bitter root with lots of great uses)
  • cumin (whole and ground)
  • coriander (ground – this and cumin are also great in Mexican cuisine)
  • cardamom (pods and ground)
  • saffron (so expensive and so wonderful when cooked into basmati rice)
  • paprika (just the smell of this is worth keeping it around)
  • yellow mustard (whole seeds and ground)
  • garam masala (I cheat and buy it. I’ve actually never made my own – but I should try!)

Other miscellaneous spices/flavors that I use on occasion:

  • onion powder
  • celery seed
  • kelp granules
  • dill
  • chili powder

When Shawn and I were on the road in Florida last year, we found an amazing place in St. Pete called Savory Spice Shop.  I could’ve spent thousands of dollars in there!  Dozens of varieties of sea salt, peppercorns, leaves, roots… holy moly!   I did finally settle for a few things:

So.. this is what I’ve got.  What’s your favorite spice, or combination of spices?  Any suggestions of spices I should try?  I’d love to hear from you – especially if you’re into vegan cooking!

Saturday Morning Musings – The city that rarely sleeps.


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Last week at this time, Shawn and I were on the road.  We made lots of new friends, reconnected with old friends, and played some well-attended shows for appreciative and attentive audiences – life can’t get much better than that.  (And you can watch a short clip from our Maryland show here.)


We were in New York City for three nights, staying with a friend in Harlem and exploring the Big Apple for the first time, at least for me, since high school.

After our show at Bowery Electric on Sunday night, we rushed over to The Blue Note to see an incredible trio: Donald Harrison on alto sax, Ron Carter on bass and Billy Cobham on drums.  I was dumbstruck by their arrangements and their effortless virtuosity.


A visit to the American Museum of Natural History was a dream come true for both of us.  The Dark Universe show at Hayden Planetarium, narrated by director Neil deGrasse Tyson, was especially humbling and awe-inspiring.   Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, with all of its undeniable evidence of the evolution of our species, nearly brought tears of wonder to my eyes.

IMG_6007Dinosaurs, gems, minerals, ancient Chinese art, painstakingly crafted dioramas – by the end of our visit I was exhausted from the sheer volume of information and stimulus.

Later that evening, we had dinner at Silvana, a great little Middle Eastern spot in Harlem, and listened to the Ekah Kim Quartet.  Fantastic!


And that was all on Monday.

On Tuesday, hand in hand, Shawn and I took a stroll through Central Park.  Even though the Reservoir was still frozen, it was 65°, sunny, slight breeze.  In other words – perfect.


At Greywacke Arch, we were treated to the gorgeous sounds of a classical guitarist from Chile.


After lunch on the West Side, we made our way to Steinway Hall.  Downtown.

“I’ll take one of each, please.”


Finally, we took the subway back to Harlem, waited for Andi to get home from work and planned our last evening in the Big Apple.

There was even fantastic music in the subway.


I’d made reservations at Iguana in Manhattan to see Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, who perform 1920s and 1930s big band and jazz arrangements.  Our friend Dan Levinson was playing clarinet and alto that night and we wanted to be sure to see him while we were in NYC.  Great food, awesome music, swanky vibe.


We vowed not to visit Times Square – once in a lifetime is more than enough.  We came within a few blocks before the descent into the subway saved us.


Our time with Andi in the city was coming to an end.  We were looking forward to being home (despite the snowstorm that awaited us) but we were sad to leave this amazing place.

We left for home the following morning, just one hour before the terrible explosion in East Harlem – just a few blocks away from Andi’s place.  He’s okay – but many more are not.  So sad.

Not only was the entire trip inspiring and exhilarating, something else happened that I can’t quite shake.

On the way back to Harlem from Iguana, an older disheveled man staggered into our sparsely-filled subway car.  He had urinated many times into his dirty blue sweatpants.  His voice was rough and hoarse as he asked for something to drink.  A woman across from us reached into her purse and gave him what was left of her small bottle of water.  He didn’t drink it.

He then asked everyone for spare change.

None of us – including me – did not reach into our pockets.  We did nothing to help him.

I don’t know why I didn’t help him.  I wanted to help him.  And yet… something stayed my hand.  I honestly don’t know what that something was.

No one in that car made a move or a sound in response to his plea.

As we walked home from the subway, I voiced this to Andi and Shawn.

“Why didn’t I help him?”

“I didn’t either.”

“I wish I had.”

“Well, next time.”

Does the city harden hearts?  Maybe.  Who knows, really.

Shawn recalled all the beggars in New Orleans that we had helped with many fistfuls of spare change and dollar bills.   True – we had done that, and I remember the time we gave someone an entire bag of oranges.

And yet… we were unmoved by this one man in New York City who, at this moment, is probably still in great need, still asking for help.

I hope I don’t make that mistake again.

Saturday Morning Musings – Firewater.


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Writing from the road this week.

This will not be the follow-up to last week’s post about food in the fridge.  Sorry to disappoint you if that’s what you were after.

A friend of mine is going through a rough break-up, and his struggles have been on my mind.  

I’ve been there.   We probably all have.   Grappling with the idea of going it alone, outside of the safety of what is otherwise not at all where you should be.

“Should I stay or should I go?” goes the classic Clash lyric.  It’s a hell of a question.  Here are a few more zingers:

How do you know when the going is getting too tough?

Where is the line between self-preservation and preserving one’s relationships?

How can you truly know whether the other person is poison to you – or if you’re the poison?

I went to see The Wood Brothers last Sunday night in Portland.  Amazing band, one of my favorites.  Fantastic show.  When they did their “old-timey” portion of the evening around “Big Mike“, they performed a song called “Firewater” from their latest album.

Her hair and her clothes
Were smellin’ of smoke
And her lips well they tasted like firewater
First kiss I was buzzed
Second I was in love I was high

Maybe it was someone you met in a smoky bar.. maybe it was someone who was bad news for you.  Close your eyes and remember that first kiss.  Intoxicating.  You feel like a sugar cube dissolving into a cup of coffee.  The feeling just grabs ahold of you and it doesn’t let you go.

You think I’da learned
All the times I was burned
Deservin’ the blues and I sure got ’em
The drinkin’ and pills
The head shrinkin’ bills they got high

You KNEW that person was nothing but trouble, nothing but a one-way ticket to heartache.   And yet you couldn’t resist – and got exactly what was coming to you.

So if you taste lips of firewater
Better make like a tree
It’s a kiss you want no part of
Better not wait and see

You can’t see it when you’re in it.  You have to go through hell and back to know where you should and shouldn’t be.  The only way to know is to live it.

Her stockings were torn
Before she was born
Her mother said she was a hard daughter
No father around
She’d just get down and get high

Some people just get dealt a terrible hand in life.   It’s not their fault.  You know and accept that the other person is flawed.  Who isn’t?  So you try to stick it out, try to be compassionate.  And yet…

So if you taste lips of firewater
Better make like a tree
That’s a kiss you want no part of
Better not wait and see

… that voice of reason screams, “NO!”  Finally, it sinks in and you have to get out.

If you taste lips of firewater
Get ready to bleed
It’s a kiss you want no part of
If you’re anything like me

Take it from someone who knows.

And we’ve all been there.  Maybe not with a lover, but perhaps with a friendship, or a substance, or a terrible job, or anything that is used to fill the void, to comfort you and shelter you from the whirlwind.

I think the short answer to those questions I listed above is: trust your gut.

When I was with my abusive ex, I ignored my gut feeling – the one that told me to get the hell out of there – for so long.  Too long.  I was scared to leave what was physically safe, while paying the price with my emotional safety.   I felt like leaving would ruin him, but staying was ruining me.

That’s not a mistake I ever intend to make again.

As I mentioned, I’m on the road this week.  Last night, Providence.  Tonight, Darlington, Maryland.  Tomorrow, NYC.  Got my sweetheart, got my music, my health, my freedom.  Life is good.

Go listen to “Firewater”.   Maybe you’ve been there and back.  Maybe you’re there now.  Good songs always speak the truth.

Saturday Morning Musings – What’s in your fridge?


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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my conversion to vegetarianism.  I received a lot of positive responses as well as a lot of questions and some requests for shopping lists.

First of all, eating healthier means that you’ll be spending a lot more time in the kitchen.  If you love to cook, then you’re ahead.  If you don’t… well, I can’t relate but I can only suggest that you think of cooking as an adventure.  Because it is!  🙂

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question, “You don’t eat meat or dairy?  Well, then what DO you eat?”  That has always seemed to me like an odd question – but there are a great many of us who rely on fast food or on heat-and-eat meals.  Cooking from scratch at home may require more time, but in the long run you’ll be saving money and be healthier – what could be better?

So, this week I have put together a list of what I believe are some basic ingredients that every refrigerator must have.

Starting with veggies:

ONIONS.  The most essential veggie.  Onions are in everything – sauteed into stir-fries and sauces, baked on top of pizzas, cooked into soups, garnished onto salads.  I always say that most of my favorite meals begin with onions and garlic being sauteed in olive oil.  Yellows are my go-to onion, but Vidalias and reds are awesome too.

TOMATOES.  (Technically a fruit, yes, but what the hell.)  Both fresh and canned.  I prefer grape tomatoes, which seem to last longer and can be chopped into and onto pretty much any dish.  For larger tomatoes, romas and heirlooms are my favorites.  Canned diced tomatoes are sometimes necessary, and the ones at Trader Joe’s are my preferred brand.  I also like Whole Foods’ 365-Organic Brand of crushed tomatoes with basil.  Perfect for building a spaghetti or pizza sauce.

CARROTS & CELERY.  Two more essential staples for soups, salads, stir-fry, steamed sides, and of course are great raw snacks on their own.

POTATOES.  Baked; mashed; sliced, boiled and fried (or baked, if you want to be healthier) for French fries.  Chopped into curries.  Cooked into soups – minestrone, of course, and homemade potato leek soup is so good and so EASY!   Yum.  I am probably a little TOO fond of potatoes.  Starch in moderation isn’t too bad, is it..?

MUSHROOMS.  You either love ’em or hate ’em, but I personally love me some fungus.  White button mushrooms are the staple in my kitchen.  Portabello caps are choice as well for things Italian.  Shiitakes are excellent for stir-fry and in miso soup.  One time, years ago, I bought some monkey head mushrooms and made a soup with them.  It was… interesting.   Definitely worth trying once just for the experience.  (Hey, like I said – cooking is an adventure!)

BELL PEPPERS.  Greens are usually the cheapest and most plentiful, depending on where you shop, but red and yellow taste so sweet and wonderful and are a great addition to anything – and are absolutely worth every penny of the higher price tag.  (Onions, green peppers and celery are the holy trinity of Cajun cooking!)

BROCCOLI.  How did broccoli become stigmatized as the “veggie that kids hate”?  I always loved it, and I also love how versatile it is.  Raw or cooked, broccoli crowns should always be available for an appearance.  Pasta dishes, salads, soups, stir-fry (you see a theme here, eh?  We eat a lot of those four things).  Steamed with a little bit of pepper?  Nothing finer.  Another good raw snack as well – though I have to admit I’ve always preferred my broccoli cooked.

LETTUCE.  Everyone should be eating more salads (including me!).  For me, organic romaine hearts are the way to go.  Spring mix, when it’s in season, is perfect.

Those are the essentials that I think one must never run out of.  And in the freezer of course I always have peas, corn and green beans.

Oh… and two more things that we keep in the freezer: Amy’s California Veggie Burgers and Rice Dream Vanilla Pies!  We also keep our bread in the freezer because we don’t eat it quickly enough to leave it out.  Barowsky’s breads are our favorite.  I also make my own bread – which is REALLY fun and you should try doing it sometime if you’ve not tried it before!

Then there are the fresh “floaters” that make semi-frequent appearances on my cutting board and in the steamer: zucchini, kale, asparagus, spinach, green onions, leeks, Brussel sprouts.

Onto fruits (which I don’t keep in the fridge, but close enough)!

BANANAS.  Every single morning that I’m home, I have a smoothie with a banana, rice milk, hemp protein and a little bit of carob powder.  The perfect way to start the day.

AVOCADOS.  One of the most perfect foods to ever evolve on this planet.  Absolutely delicious.  I make a lot of guac, but avocados are also great when chopped into a salad, taco or burrito, sliced onto a veggie burger – or just cut one in half and eat the whole thing with a spoon.

APPLES.   Yep.  Apples.  ’nuff said.  My favorites are Braeburns and Galas.

CLEMENTINES.   A quick and healthy snack that’s easy to peel.

I always keep blueberries in the freezer for pancakes and muffins.  And then the fresh “floaters” in this category are: peaches, plums, kiwis, grapes.

Dried fruits are essential, too.  Raisins and dates for starters.  Apricots are yum, too.

MORE FRIDGE STAPLES (in no particular order):

Rice milk (much better than soy)
Hemp protein
Eggs (I eat maybe one a week – and we buy them from a farm just around the corner)
Peanut butter (we buy Trader Joe’s brand, which will separate if not kept in the fridge)
Tahini (for making cheese-like sauces)
Hot sauce (Beast Feast Maine is our preferred source)
Annie’s Goddess Salad Dressing (our favorite)
Follow Your Heart Vegenaise (I love it on my French fries)
Miso (for soups and spreads)
Fresh lemon and lime (for hummus and guac, respectively)
Fresh basil and pine-nuts (for pesto!)

Okay, so that’s the fridge covered.  Next time, I’ll open up the cabinets and take a look at cans, spices, grains, and more!