Things That Inspire & Make Me Happy



It was inevitable.  I married a man who taught high school biology and horticulture.  Plants (and critters, but that’s another story) were, and are, his life.  I had virtually no choice but to learn about things that grow in dirt and how to grow them.  And I’m not complaining.  Over the years, we’ve fed our family from our annual garden and filled our house with vases and pots full of everything from tea roses and daffodils to African violets and enormous Zygocactus (Christmas cactus).  At this very moment, I’m looking out the window of my writing room (our sunroom) at a backyard ringed with every color phlox and impatiens you can imagine, black-eyed Susans (our Maryland State flower—goldfinch love them), gazanias, rieger begonias, elephant-ear caladiums, wild begonias, butterfly bushes, and half a dozen other varieties of blooming plants and flowers.  A few months ago, my attention was distracted by a spectacular display of Asiatic lilies, including the Stargazer variety with blooms eleven inches across (we measured them).  So, no, I’m not complaining.  Hubby’s passion has long since become one of my own.

Here’s a little sampling (really, it’s tiny—we’ve got hundreds of flower pics) of our gardens and things we’ve grown.  And you might catch a few glimpses of our three-poodle pack; I can’t go into the yard without their wanting to be out there with me:



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I love to cook, and I’m good at it. My father taught me, mostly. His big (in more ways than one) German-immigrant family owned a general store (early 1900s); he, second in a line of eight children, lost his mother when he was thirteen, so all the sibs made use of the food readily at hand and, of necessity, all learned to cook—and to cook well. My mom was no slouch at cooking, either, but she was better at baking and didn’t quite have Daddy’s flaire for combining interesting flavors to create something new and (mostly) delicious (remind me to tell you sometime about the not-so-delicious combos he came up with—such as baked mac-and-cheese made with Limburger).

I’ve cooked my way through a lot of phases, such as vegetarianism, spurred on by Frances Moore Lappé’s book Diet for a Small Planet; unable to tolerate the bland offerings most veggie cookbooks offered (lentils—blech!), I developed my own recipes and, if I do say so, made some pretty darned good things (my friends thought I should open a gourmet vegetarian restaurant.  No, thanks!).

Having long ago abandoned vegetarianism (see “How I Met My Husband” on the Truths page), I more recently became a low-carb convert (no more dumplings in the sauerbraten).  Since then, I’ve developed quite a lot of recipes for—according to all reports from family, friends, and my own tastebuds—excellent low-carb goodies.  Here, I’ll be offering some of them for your dining pleasure.

And we might as well start with the really good stuff: Mary Kirk’s Favorite Cookies

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Top Ten (or eight or twelve . . .) Lists

The following are a very few of the books, movies and TV shows, and pieces of music that have captured and held my imagination, kept the adrenalin pumping in my veins, wrenched my heart in all the right ways, or simply provided chicken soup for my soul—and in some cases, all of the above.  Same goes for the creative and talented people mentioned.  In no particular order . . .

Favorite Books

  • The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
  • Shogun by James Clavell
  • Watchers by Dean Koontz
  • Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
  • Straight by Dick Francis
  • Hot Money by Dick Francis
  • The Rake by Mary Jo Putney
  • The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
  • Harry Potter: I – VII by J.K. Rowling
  • Years by Lavyrle Spencer
  • The Wolf’s Hour by Robert McCammon
  • The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follett

Favorite Movies

Truth is, watching movies ranks among my most favorite things in the world.  So picking only a few to list here was nearly impossible; I could name, easily, a hundred movies I love.  Which is why I’ll probably keep expanding the list below. Might add a whole separate category, for instance, for WWII movies.  These, however, will do for starters:

  • Notting Hill
  • The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  • Star Trek (2009)
  • Ladyhawke
  • Waking Ned Devine
  • The Hunt for Red October
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • Avatar
  • Resurrection
  • The Big Easy
  • An Officer and a Gentleman
  • Babe
  • Chocolat
  • Pirate Radio

Favorite TV shows

TV-watching is second only to movie-watching among my Favorite Things To Do.  So narrowing the list was nearly as hard as it was for movies.

  • “Star Trek:  The Next Generation”
  • “Babylon V”
  • “NYPD Blue”
  • “The Closer”
  • “Eureka”
  • “Northern Exposure”
  • “ER”
  • “House”
  • “I Love Lucy”
  • “M.A.S.H.”
  • “Quantum Leap”

Favorite Actors

  • Gregory Peck
  • Julia Roberts
  • Hugh Grant
  • Judi Dench
  • Sean Connery
  • Kevin Kline
  • Sally Field
  • Rosalind Russell
  • David Strathairn
  • Johnny Depp
  • Al Molino

Favorite Music

Classical & Orchestral
  • Symphony No. 9, Ludwig van Beethoven (isn’t it everybody’s favorite?)
  • Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 (“The Organ Symphony”) by Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Opus 73:  Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major (“Emperor”), Beethoven
  • Opus 13: Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor (“Pathétique”), Beethoven
  • “Raphsody in Blue” by George Gershwin
  • “Like a Rock” (Bob Seger)
  • “We’ve Got Tonight” (Bob Seger)
  • “Old Time Rock ’n Roll” (Bob Seger)
  • “Me and Bobby McGee” (Kris Kristofferson)
  • “Let the River Run” (Carly Simon)
  • “Blackbird” (John Lennon & Paul McCartney)
  • “Suite:  Judy Blue Eyes” (Steven Stills)
  • “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” (Bob Dylan)
  • “Let It Be” (John Lennon & Paul McCartney)
  • “Freebird” (Lynyrd Skynryd) (the music; ignore the lyrics)
  • “Let the Rest of the World Go By” (Ernest Ball / J Keirn Brennan)
  • “The Fox” (as performed by Harry Belafonte)
  • “Jamaica Farewell” (Irving “Lord Burgess” Burgie, as performed by Harry Belafonte)
Bands & Performers
  • Bob Seger
  • The Beatles
  • Paul McCartney
  • The Eagles
  • Queen
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Led Zeppelin
  • Lynyrd Skynryd
  • Heart
  • Dean Martin
  • Harry Belafonte
  • Cher
  • Patsy Cline
  • Kenny Rogers
  • Barbra Streisand
  • Linda Ronstadt
Show Tunes
  •  “Music of the Night” (Phantom of the Opera)
  • “Summertime” (Porgy and Bess)
  • “Old Man River” (Showboat)
  • “Miriah” (Paint Your Wagon)
  • “Tonight” (West Side Story)
  • “Beauty and the Beast” (Beauty and the Beast)
  • “Under the Sea” (The Little Mermaid)
  • “Over the Rainbow” (The Wizard of Oz)
Movie Soundtracks

A terrific soundtrack can make an otherwise dull movie good.  A bad soundtrack can lower a great movie to merely okay.  For me, the music is a critical component of the movie-making puzzle.  Notice how many of the following are from movies on my favorites list, above.  That’s no coincidence.

  • Ladyhawke  (Andrew Powell)
  • The Hunt for Red October (Basil Poledouris)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:  The Curse of the Black Pearl  (Klaus Badelt)
  • Star Trek:  Insurrection  (Jerry Goldsmith)
  • Star Trek: First Contact  (Jerry Goldsmith)
  • Star Trek (2009) (Michael Giacchino)
  • Waking Ned Devine  (Shaun Davey)
  • Glory  (James Horner)
  • Up  (Michael Giacchino)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone  (John Williams)
  • Dirty Dancing  (John Morris—and lots of other fabulous artists)
  • Babe  (Nigel Westlake—seriously influenced by Camille Saint-Saëns)
  • Top Gun  (Harold Faltermeyer—but, like Dirty Dancing, with lots of help)
  • JC Superstar  (Andrew Lloyd Webber)