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Memories and Musings

By Cheri Sims
Oh the joys of gardening! When I was a kid I did not like dirt or bugs. I could not understand why my parents liked to garden because planting things meant one had to dig in dirt and face all those creepy crawly things. One also had to water the plants which meant the ground around the plants became muddy and mud got on your shoes and clothes and even your hands. Muddy clothing led to scolding and forced extra hand washing with some really stinky soap. If I went back outside after washing with said stinky soap the kids would laugh and the soap smell attracted flies and mosquitoes. For a long time I didn’t know what kind of soap my Mom made me wash my hands with but it should have been buried in the garden with the plants.

My dad was a pristine gardener. He never got dirty and I don’t know how he succeeded in staying clean with all the work he did. My Mom had a special apron meant only for gardening and she would constantly wipe her hands on the apron, so her clothing and hands were never dirty ( I can’t imagine gardening in an apron). Daddy said they never got dirty because they did not want to wash their hands with the stinky soap and I believed him. I really tried to emulate their gardening techniques but did not succeed until I started my own garden some twenty years later. As I inserted the shovel in my first patch of ground, I did not immediately revel in the wonderful earthy fragrance of fresh turned earth; my imagination conjured up the smell of the childhood stinky soap and at that minute I vowed not to get dirty while gardening. I did not succeed and after hours of turning earth I plodded into the house and called my Mom to ask the name of the soap she used when I was a kid. I was sure I would never get rid of the dirt and grime from my hard day’s work!

By the way, the stinky soap was Lifebuoy and I would not find out the name of the soap until the Christmas of 1983 when we watched the movie, “A Christmas Story”; “Lifebuoy is now best remembered as a gag in A Christmas Story. After Ralphie drops the F-bomb, his mom sticks a bar of Lifebuoy in his mouth. (He prefers Lux and Palmolive.) Ralphie later fantasizes about the punishment backfiring, turning him blind. “Soap poisoning,” he explains to his parents. “I told you not to use Lifebuoy,” his father (Darren McGavin) cries. You see, decades ago, Lifebuoy contained phenol. The harsh additive is now missing, as is that distinctive scent… and flavor”. ( After watching the movie I called my Mom and ask if Lifebouy was the name of the soap and she finally recalled that it was in fact the brand and she used it because my Grandpa, who was a barber, told her it was the only soap to cut the dirt. To this day, when gardening, I can smell that soap.

If you want a real blast from the past take a look at the web site mentioned above, it is called “Decades” at The site is filled with decade’s long TV information and all things related to the TV of our past. The site is edited by Bill Kurtis, a personality and news person I can recall from past TV. The site contains articles, video, interviews, quizzes and much more and I have found it to be a fascinating site.

While tending my herb garden last week I picked the first batch of fresh herbs and continued my pleasure by making my favorite homemade pizza. If you have never had an herb pizza I highly recommend that you try it. I first had Herb de Provence pizza in a northern French town in Quebec Province, Canada; most of Quebec province is French speaking and has some of the best French food we ever experienced. The French herb blend (recipe below) is aromatic and delicious but I learned from the Chef that one can make their own version if there are some herbs that you don’t like. I am not fond of fennel and lavender in this pizza and eliminating those does not alter the flavor very much.

This Herb de Provence blend is good on just about any food and I regularly use it on potatoes and it goes well with baked pork and chicken. If I want a summer salad and do not have any of my homemade dressing I will mix the herbs with light sour cream for a delicious salad dressing. I have also used the herb mixture in soups and stews and one time I experimented with biscuit dough and mixed in two tablespoons. The biscuits were delicious.

Happy gardening!

Herbes de Provence Blend Recipe

* 1 tablespoon fennel 


* 2 tablespoons dried 


* 1/4 cup dried thyme

* 3 tablespoons dried 


* 3 tablespoons dried 

summer savory, 


* 1 tablespoon dried 


* 1 tablespoon dried 


* 1 teaspoon dried 

chervil, optional

* 1 teaspoon dried mint

* 1 teaspoon dried 

lavender, optional

 Herb Pizza with 


* 1 ball pizza dough

* 1 1/2 cups sliced 

mixed mushrooms 

(such as baby bella aka 


* , button, shiitake, and 


* 3 tablespoons Herbes 

de Provence

* 1/4 teaspoon plus 1 

pinch salt

* 1 tablespoon olive oil, 

plus more for drizzling

* 1 tablespoon fresh 

lemon juice

* 1 to 2 ounces cheddar 

cheese, crumbled

* 3/4 cup shredded 

mozzarella cheese

* 1 to 2 tablespoons 

finely chopped chives

* Semolina flour or 

cornmeal, for dusting 

the pizza peel


1.  Make the pizza dough: 

2.  Preheat your pizza oven to 400 degrees

3.  Prepare the toppings: Clean the mushrooms and slice them. In a saute pan or skillet, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil to medium high heat. Add the mushrooms, chopped herbs, and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When mushrooms are tender, reduce the heat to low, add lemon juice. Remove from the heat.

4. Bake the pizza: When the oven is ready, dust a pizza peel with cornmeal or semolina flour. (If you don’t have a pizza peel, you can use a rimless baking sheet or the back of a rimmed baking sheet. But a pizza peel is well worth the investment!) Stretch the dough into a circle; . Then gently place the dough onto the pizza peel.

5. Brush a thin layer of olive oil onto the crust. Then top with the mozzarella cheese in an even layer, then the cooked mushrooms, and crumbles of goat cheese. Garnish with the chopped chives and additional thyme sprigs. Sprinkle with 1 pinch salt.

6. Use the pizza peel to carefully transfer the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake the pizza until the cheese and crust are nicely browned, about 5 to 7 minutes in the oven (or 1 minute in a pizza oven). Slice into pieces and serve immediately.

Original recipe –

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