Zucchini, too much of a good thing?

Lori Borgman | July 31, 2023

A friend served zucchini with dinner the other night and her 10-year-old exclaimed, “Oh no, it’s zucchini season!”

The kid is right. And know this: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Gardeners flush with zucchini all adhere to the same mantra: “What’s mine is yours.” They will do whatever it takes to make sure what is theirs becomes yours.

We’ve never grown zucchini because we’ve never had to. If we want zucchini, we just stand by the curb and hold out our arms. Nine out of 10 cars will roll down their windows and toss out some zucchini. The neighbors refer to it as a drive-by zuke-ing.

You know this year’s zucchini surplus is extreme when a nearby zoo announces they will continue accepting garden produce for the animals, but please, no more zucchini.

When a neighbor was in in grad school, an international student from Lebanon asked if it was an American tradition to take tomatoes and zucchini when you visit someone.

It is.

Case in point: An older gentleman and seasoned gardener would take home-grown tomatoes along with zucchini with him whenever he visited friends. You couldn’t have any tomatoes unless you agreed to take some zucchini.

Who could blame him? Zucchinis are the vegetable equivalent of plastic food storage containers that multiply in the dark.

Some of our kids are big gardeners and often text photos of their daily harvest. In their last picture I counted 20 zucchinis.

We texted a picture back of our daily harvest. Six peas. We thought maybe they’d take pity on us and have Door Dash deliver a meal.

We’d starve to death if we had to survive on peas. Even if we rationed them, we wouldn’t make it.

“Here, have a pea,” I tell my husband at dinner.

“I had one yesterday. It’s your turn. You eat it.”

“No, you—” and he drops to the floor midsentence from hunger.

Our green beans aren’t as prolific as other gardeners’ zucchini, but they have done better than the peas. I picked 12 green beans the other day. We had three each. I’d read green beans were good cooked on the grill. I was careful turning them, but they kept falling between the grates.

Do not, I repeat, do not try retrieving a green bean wedged between white hot charcoal with tongs.

Zucchinis are popular because they are low cal and healthy. But they also top the list of vegetables often requiring enhancement before consuming. Zucchini bread, zucchini waffles, zucchini muffins, zucchini with parm, zucchini with garlic butter, zucchini bacon and cheese boats. Zucchinis are low cal—when they’re still on the vine.

Maybe you heard about the woman who left a zucchini in her car while she went shopping. When she returned, someone had broken in and left her six more.

Lock your vehicles and keep your guard up. You can never be too careful.



(where it all began a long, long, long, long time ago) 

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Packed and ready, now the wait

The turquoise backpack with flowers and a pink owl is jammed full with long-sleeved shirts, jammies, socks, underwear, a unicorn stuffie, and one slightly used sketchpad. She’s packed and ready to go.

Yes, it does appear she forgot to put in jeans and long pants, but who am I to criticize a five-year-old?

And, yes, the all-family trip to Michigan is not until fall, roughly another 12 weeks away. More precisely, 89 days or 2,136 hours. But who’s counting?

She is.

She’s waiting and thinking and daydreaming. She’s picturing herself in the hot tub, running up and down the steep slope from the rental to the lake and paddling one of the tomato red kayaks all by herself. As if.

She’s wondering when summer will end, fall will begin and everyone will pile into cars and head north for a four-day weekend with all the cousins and aunts and uncles.

And lasagna. Don’t forget there will be lasagna. It’s tradition.

The child is not simply counting down the days; she’s practicing the lost art of anticipation. Anticipating has all but disappeared in a world of instant gratification.

See. Want. Buy.

Scroll. Swipe. Click.

These days the most practice any of us have anticipating is tracking an online order. Yes, it has shipped! Yes, it is out for delivery! Yes, it will be here by 10 p.m.! The joy of hearing a thud by the front door has become our new Christmas morning.

It is not easy to anticipate much of anything when everything is at our fingertips. Literally.

I’ve read that looking forward to something causes our brains to release hormones along the brain’s reward system. It’s like chocolate, but without the fat and the calories.

Of course, there’s the other kind of anticipation as well, the anticipation of dread. Dwelling there can cause you to experience a dreaded event twice, once before it happens as you stew about it and then again when it does happens.

Where’s the shut off valve?

When a couple of our grown kids and their families lived a half-day or a two-day drive away, knowing the goodbyes would be hard, we often had a date on the calendar for when we’d next see one another. The seeds of anticipation helped ease the goodbye.

Anticipation is a form of delayed gratification. It is the waiting, holding in place, watching both the clock and the calendar, reveling in what is to come, the satisfaction of mapping out a trip, or outing, weeks in advance.

Even after the date arrives and the event has happened, there’s the anticipation of the road home, the vehicle turning into the driveway.

No doubt that little one also remembers the bonfire and the s’mores and is looking forward to doing those things again. Why have I not savored those same memories with the same intensity? Why don’t I have my jammies and toothbrush already packed?

I need to go find a suitcase.


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Getting a jump on summer

We may be alike in that you, too, believed frog jumping contests had gone the way of Mark Twain, steamboats and rotary dial telephones.

Like me, you would be wrong.

We have been with the rural wing of the family, where you weave through a dozen or more mud boots scattered on the deck to enter the house. Dried mud, wet mud, layers and layers of stratified mud; it is a mud paradise.

As such, it is also a vacation destination for frogs. Beneath the shade of towering hickory trees, frogs cluster around pondings of still brown water, lounging in tiny bag chairs situated next to tiny charcoal grills and miniature frog-size RVs parked at the water’s edge.

Due to a burgeoning frog population growing by leaps and bounds, and the proximity of a small county fair hosting a frog jumping contest, the kids began eyeing the frogs in a new light. Visions of blue ribbons danced in their heads.

They collected a dozen assorted frogs and placed them in a large plastic tub filled with pond mud and water and topped it off with a lid with holes drilled in it for air. Naturally, they named the frogs. Every single frog was named “Winner.”

But they noticed the frog population dwindling. Every morning another frog or two was missing. Meanwhile, a large bull frog seemed to be growing. The frog count dropped from a dozen to nine to seven. And then there was one.

No one wanted to think the worst, however, a bit of research found that though it is commonly believed frogs are insectivores, they are actually “generalist carnivores.” This means they will eat any small critter they can swallow, including their own kin.

A moment of silence, please.

Now a moment of disgust.

And now a moment of gagging.

It’s a frog-eat-frog world.

The kids, all entered in different time slots and age categories, agreed to share the remaining alpha frog.

Given the signal, contestants were to place their frog on a faux lily pad. They could not touch the frog but could tap around it, blow on it or yell at it. If the frog did not jump within 30 seconds, it was disqualified. If the frog jumped, three jumps were measured and that was the entrant’s score.

In the baby-to-age-5 category, Winner scored 25 inches in three jumps. In the 6-to-11 age category, Winner jumped 25 inches for one of the kids and sat motionless for another.

With the 12-to-15 age category about to begin, the 11-year-old handed off the frog to his older brother seated in the row in front of him. As he passed the frog over an older woman’s shoulder—by her head—one of the frog’s legs accidentally, and ever so slightly, grazed the side of the woman’s face.

Both boys emphasize the “ever so slightly” business, as if being slightly grazed by a frog is far superior to having one smacked directly in your kisser. They may have a point.

Nonetheless, the woman shrieked and jumped. They say it was an amazing jump. No frog in the county has ever jumped that high – or that far. Nobody knows how far she jumped, but if she ever stops running, she can probably collect a blue ribbon.

The excitement must have energized Winner. Ture to his name, he made three jumps totaling 65 inches and cinched first place in the 12-to-15 group.





On people names going to the dogs . . . 

One of my college classmates, who grew up on a farm, had several dogs and cats and he named them all after his friends:  Bob, Sandra, Lois, Steve, etc.  No ambiguity there.
-Mike M.

Ours was Bagel the Beagle!
­-Rebecca N.

I have a 100 pound chocolate lab that I suspect has some Irish Setter in  his family tree. When he’s in the sun he is more red than brown. As a result I decided to name him Clifford after Clifford the big red dog. I learned shortly after he came into my life that he likes to snuggle, so Clifford didn’t work. As a result his name now is Teddy as in bear.
-Eugene M.

We have Derek the cat. He is our 5th cat and the first with a person-related name.  We were out of ideas. We had Tuffy, Sneads, Snarles (who really was a pussycat, so he needed a tough sounding name), Buddy and now Derek.  Derek seems to like the name.  He comes when called, but usually food is involved.
-Carolyn G.

My son’s two dogs were Copper and Nickle….he’s a chemist.
-Millie W.

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People names are going to the dogs

We’ve been encountering confusion with people names and dog names lately.

Some of the grands have a new puppy named Emmie. That’s cute. But when you call “Emmie” from a distance it can sound like “Emma.”

The kids with the new puppy have a cousin named Emma, there is an aunt in an adjoining wing of the family named Emma and all 11 grands have at least one friend named Emma. Emma is the number one most popular baby girl name.

When you yell Emmie real fast and it sounds like Emma, you never know if a kid you are related to, a puppy, or someone you’ve never met before, will come running.

Charlie and Max are among the most popular names for dogs.

We have, or have had, both in the family. Max was a small dog with a bad hip rescued from a Chicago pound. Max often nipped at feet under the table and barked and lunged at black leather jackets and motorcycles.

The Charlie in the family is my better half. He does not nip at people’s feet, nor does he wag his tail. Unless I make ribs.

Some of the grands have a little cousin on the other side of the family named Milo and there is also a dog in the family named Milo. Toddler Milo weighs about 25 pounds and the German Shepherd Milo weighs 85. One Milo you want to pick up and hug, the other Milo you want to brace yourself against a wall when you see him charging toward you.

When I was a kid, we had a dog named Smoky. That dog died and we got another dog and named him Smoky. Creative, right? When my brother moved out, he got a dog and named it Smoky. Then my brother thought it would be fun to list himself in the phone book as Smoky. Somehow, I began getting mail for Smoky even though I was living on the opposite side of the country to my brother and his dog.

Smoky received offers for life insurance policies, car insurance and magazine subscriptions.

Even more difficult to explain is my husband’s family that had a cat named Fish.

People often name pets and offspring after famous people, so again with the overlap. A friend had a dog named Winston, as in Winston Churchill. A cigar in the pooch’s mouth would have fit just fine.

Maybe it is time to branch out with the dog names. Perhaps name dogs after the planets: Saturn, Neptune, Mercury, Jupiter. You don’t run into a lot of people with those names, but that’s just me. Another family somewhere might have the entire solar system covered.

Maybe we could draw on the table of elements: Titanium, Magnesium, Lithium. But then, names that end in “-um” are never good yelling names and a good yelling name is crucial in naming both pets and children.

Who knows if people names have inspired dog names or if dog names have inspired people names. It’s like asking which came first, the chicken or the egg, or the baby or the pup?

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Fridays will never be the same

Every Friday one of us called our nephew Luke or he called us.

We started with the weather. He always knew the highs and lows, if it was a pleasant day or storms were stirring. He couldn’t see what was happening outside – he started losing his vision at age 12 — but he knew.

We talked about ball teams, outrageous headlines in the news and building projects his dad and brother had undertaken. He was always upbeat. We chatted about what his 5-year-old nephew and baby niece were up to. We shared antics happening in our wing of the family, stories about rascally grandkids, a frog-jumping contest and outdoor adventures, all the things he enjoyed as a boy.

Our phone calls grew louder over the years. He had lost most of his hearing. Ours isn’t great either, so we were entirely comfortable with the volume on high.

As Luke’s condition rapidly deteriorated, we drove back to Missouri for a final visit, flying along hours of interstate, finally turning onto small highways that wind through golden pastureland and tree-covered hills. Each up and down of those hills is an invitation to reach out and touch the deep blue sky.

Luke did just that. He reached out and touched the sky. He slipped the bonds of earth and suffering and returned to his Creator.

My mother anguished terribly over her grandson’s situation. When he lost his sight she would say, “I wish I could take my eyes out and give them to him.” If she could have, she would have.

Someone commented that there are a number of people in heaven glad to see Luke. They may even be fighting over him. If they are fighting, the consensus is that it will be my mother who wins.

Most people with Kearns-Sayre syndrome don’t make it past 30. Luke made it to 38.

We covered a lot of ground in our Friday conversations, but there were some things we never heard him say.

He never said, “I quit.” Or “I can’t.” Not when the mitochondrial disease targeted his sight, his hearing, his balance, his heart and every major system in his body. He came by fortitude naturally. He got it from his parents.

His mom and dad never said, “I can’t” or “I quit” either.

They leaned into the wind. Gale force wind, the kind that whips your hair, burns your eyes and sucks the air from your lungs. With each setback, each punch in the gut, each round of awful test results, they leaned in harder.

They are my heroes.

Few people in this world have their kind of strength. It is a strength fueled by a mother and father’s undying love.

Fridays will never be the same.


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