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“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Back in 2010, I became a volunteer for cooking classes that taught basic culinary skills and healthy recipes to families on a budget in East Palo Alto. I was new to the Bay area and something about the idea spoke to me.

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roasted asparagus and prosciutto

I had hoped to get this recipe to you before Easter Sunday, of course, but life intervened. No matter. Surely you have leftover eggs and asparagus that need a second destiny. If not, allow me to give you a scrumptious excuse for yet another springtime brunch.

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potato harvest

One of the joys of gardening is that it sends you back to childlike thrills: buried treasure, mud pits, Easter Egg hunts. Potato harvesting combines all of these.

Our backyard garden is currently fallow, but last year we had a potato-harvesting bonanza. I tell you this now, in February, because here in California planting season has nearly arrived. And despite the recent blizzard throughout the Northeast, spring will be whispering wildflowers and blooming magnolias before you know it. It’s prime time to plan your garden.

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Isabelle the chicken on the prowl

I ate eggs for dinner three times last week, the only meals I cooked all week. Let it be a testimony: backyard chickens provide a bounty, and pregnant women (at least this one) are less inventive in the kitchen.

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succulent table

Inspiration is complicated.

Have you ever had a vision for a project—seen it every time you close your eyes, every time you glance at a junk pile or unfinished corner of the house? On the one hand, the vision is incredibly motivating. You can see your handiwork in all its glory, feel its texture, envision its usefulness. On the other hand, the vision is tormenting. The unfinished product taunts you, haunts you with the specter of its awesomeness until you get off your bum and get to work. There’s no easy way around it.

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Francoise the rooster

Remember this fella?

Certain verbs cannot be fully appreciated until you live with a rooster. Verbs such as strut or preen. Or crow. By October, Francoise had built up his crowing prowess to a powerful regimen of 7 p.m., midnight, 4, 5, 6, and 7 a.m. Lord only knows what happened on workdays. Needless to say the neighbors finally said uncle. Can you blame them? While I miss his handsome face, as they say, silence is golden.

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samples at the Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival

I went to the Heirloom Tomato Festival at the Kendall-Jackson vineyards this Saturday, courtesy of our generous landlords who had spare tickets. The catch is I went solo. As a residency widow, I confess this happens from time to time. But I tell you, traveling alone can be more entertaining than you think.

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Hot Cucumber Soup with Deep-Fried Parsley

I subscribe to a frenzy of food blogs and newsletters. At times I have to dig out my inbox beneath the press of recipes for martinis, vegan chocolate cupcakes, and hamburger sliders. But every now and then the statistical odds tilt in my favor, and just the right recipe will land on my plate. Earlier this week exactly that happened.

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Denali and Isabelle

My dog, Denali, has a bone to pick with you. She heard an ugly rumor that some of you readers think she wants to, ahem, eat the chickens.

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bowl of green beans

“Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb.” – Greg Child

Do you think plants ever have existential questions? You know: Why am I here? What am I good at? From my vantage point, it sure doesn’t look like it.

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