A beautiful closeup of an incredible medley of salad greens. I ate this!

On a whim, I decided to play a medley of John Denver songs to celebrate playing my guitar outdoors. My voice lesson clips are only for anyone who wants to share my passion for music and songwriting!






When I was little I used to wish my friend and neighbor, Joni, were able to play with me. Joni’s parents owned a dry cleaning store and unfortunately she had to work there every day after school until nighttime. This began from the time she was very little.

She did not attend the same school as I until high school because her school needed to be the one closest to the dry cleaning shop. By the time we were in high school, we were not as close. But we always remained friends, since we were toddlers. A beautiful exchange about this is at: #213 THE BEAUTY REMAINS

Over the last thirty years, Joni and I seldom saw each other. Certainly, we didn’t do anything as adventurous as hiking.

I used to imagine Joni and I might be playing monopoly again when we were old! I figured we’d be old before we had the time to do that!

Carol and Joni before we left on our hike.

Yesterday, Joni and I met up with Carol to go on a “foraging expedition.” This “adventure” would be our second outing as a threesome. A month ago we collected Chanterelle mushrooms with Carol’s expertise. We cooked them at the picnic area and they were absolutely delicious. Being that Carol was an avid forager made it easy for me to trust her knowledge. Carol shared that when she lived in Iowa, she was involved with educating people about locally produced foods and sustainable agriculture.

Carol and I were good friends while I was in college. We lost touch after she was briefly engaged to Sam, who was my boyfriend on and off through high school. Sam found my blog and reconnected with me last October. (My song, “You’re Not the One” was written for him!) In October, Sam told me how to find Carol. Sam and Carol were not in touch, but I have been in touch with both of them since then.

This has all been very interesting!

Yesterday, as Joni and I rode together to Carol’s home near Pasadena, I marveled how I felt like a young girl again.

We quickly arrived at Carol’s house. Carol gave us a tour; her home was warm and very quaint. Her garden displayed pure joy. It was obvious to see she had an eye for color, texture, and certainly taste!

Carol had just celebrated her birthday. Her husband had made her a beautiful book that displayed a lot of the beautiful food they enjoyed together. I took a picture of the front and back covers – the experience of tasting those Chanterelles with Carol was something I certainly wouldn’t forget.

Our “foraging adventure” was in the Angeles National Forest near Chantry Flats. It wasn’t far from Carol’s house.

Foraging was definitely a slower pace than simply hiking. Carol shared with Joni and I a lot of her knowledge. There were many kinds of “greens,” they became bitter if they were “older,” even if they were edible. With Fennel leaves, the tender, young shoots resembled caterpillars unlike the tough, outer ferns.

Carol gathering Miner’s lettuce.

It was fascinating to learn about the edible plants and what to look for. I had actually illustrated many herbs before, but seldom had the opportunity to actually see the living plant.

Unfortunately, by the time I recognized “stinging nettle,” which I had illustrated – I already felt my hand tingling and burning!

This is a good example of what we looked at before picking them. It was best to use a scissor, and not pull the plant out by the roots (that way it could grow back).

I photographed a periwinkle flower, and put my painting done years before next to it for comparison.

A periwinkle flower I photographed with a painting of one that I did for a Kirkland (Costco) vitamin supplement label several years ago.

I should have known not to get near this plant – this is an illustration of “stinging nettle” that I did a long time ago!

Now I can look at my painting and know I’ve eaten this plant!

Here were the plants that we gathered to create the most unbelievably, delicious salad: Miner’s Lettuce, Chickweed, Sow Thistle, Dandelion, Mustard, and Fennel.

Carol picked leaves and chewed them slowly. I grinned and told her it was a little “too naked” for me – I would wait for the salad dressing! I was especially excited because Carol had created and brought along a miso/ginger masterpiece for me to taste.

I love streams and running water. I have always wanted to create paintings with rocks and water.

Our hike was downhill going and uphill on the return. As we trudged back, I was looking forward to lunch. Hiking always made everything taste great. Certainly, I knew it would be heavenly to have a picnic. But I have to be honest; I was wary at first. Would the fennel impart a taste strong enough to make the salad taste like licorice? Would mustard greens be bitter?

Carol tossing the salad.

Joni and I – friends for almost fifty years!

A picture for comparison!

My wariness melted away with each bite. The greens were juicy, sweet, and flavorful. I was pleasantly surprised. I never expected weeds to taste so delicious! Of course, adding pine nuts, cheese, avocado, and a few other additions certainly contributed! Sure enough, Carol’s mysterious salad dressing was “out of this world!”

I didn’t want any pictures with green stuff stuck in my teeth!

It was a beautiful thing indeed to reconnect with my friends again. The memory of our outing would always stay with me.

I pulled out my guitar while my two friends finished their salads. I closed my eyes and loved hearing the sound of my guitar tinkling in the breeze. Carol sang along with me on the last two songs.

I shared my newest song with my friends. Lately, it has been echoing in my mind. It isn’t completely formed, but each week my song has progressed a little further. It now has almost all of the chords and melody, but it doesn’t have words or even a name yet.

However, the melody is so upbeat – it speaks without words to me.

When my mood is ready, the lyrics will appear. This process can’t be rushed, and I am hopeful it will happen soon.

Joni took only this one picture of me playing my guitar. It was perfect for me because it captured how happy I felt.

© Judy Unger and 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Judy Unger with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

About Judy

I'm an illustrator by profession. At this juncture in my life, I am pursuing my dream of writing and composing music. Every day of my life is precious!
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