Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cooking with Lavender

Lavender is becoming increasingly popular as an ingredient in cooking. Restaurants and home cooks are finding this beautiful plant a lovely enhancement to the flavor and appearance of the foods they make. Lavender bud and leaves can both be used for culinary purposes in both the fresh and dried forms. Dried lavender bud added to a cup of your favorite tea has a charmingly astringent flavor, while clumps of lavender flowers make a beautiful addition to green salads. Sauces, jellies, frozen desserts, and creams are all enhanced by lavender's presence. Lavender is also delicious in baked goods like tea breads, yeast breads, cookies, and cakes. And it can be substituted in any recipe that calls for rosemary quite successfully. Even the spikes and stems of the lavender plant are useful in cooking, making flavorful skewers for fruit kabobs. So, go make yourself a icy cold glass of lavender lemonade, and read on for more 'cooking with lavender' ideas.

The Lavender Cookbook

Lavender cookbooks are becoming more available as the popularity of this fragrant herb increases. I have several in my collection, and this is one I especially enjoy. The Lavender Cookbook by Sharon Shipley contains a wide range of recipes --- from entrees to salads and baked goods. How do some of these yummy dishes sound?
Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Lavender and Lime
California Avocado Cream Pie
Roasted Lavender Spiced Pears
Lavender Roasted Beets with Garlic and Lemon
Coleslaw with Spicy Lavender Dressing
Beet, Apple, and Carrot Salad with Lavender Lemon Dressing
Cream of Chestnut Soup with Lavender Garnish
Olive Lavender Country Bread
Garlicky Lavender Curry Hummus with Pita Crisps
Lavender Fruit Mosaic Tart
Lavender Pecan Crust
Provence Fettuccine Nuovi
Farro Lavender Tabbouleh Salad
Are you hungry yet?
This cookbook is published by Running Press. Although it is not vegan, nor gluten-free, it contains many fantastic ideas and the recipes are highly adaptable to specific dietary needs.

A Recipe Page

The recipes in The Lavender Cookbook are nicely displayed and easy to read. They invite you to the kitchen for a cooking session!

Little Scented Library Book

Another fun lavender book is one I found at a yard sale. This one is called Lavender and is authored by Joanna Sheen. It appears to be part of a series of books called The Little Scented Library and is published by Simon and Schuster. Enclosed between two covers are pictures, ideas, and recipes for posies & nosegays, lavender bundles, potpourri, sachets and pillows, soaps, and food recipes.
According to this book, lavender lends a delicious and elusive flavor to food, both sweet and savory. It suggests adding flowers to ice creams, sorbets, and even fresh fruit salads. Recipes are included for lavender honey, lavender mustard, lavender oil, lavender vinegars, lavender tea, and lavender biscuits. This is a great little book!
Aren't these pretty little cookies? Lavender is tasty in scones too! The purple bud makes for a beautiful presentation with baked goods.

Lavender Tea, A Recipe

Place a tablespoon of organic lavender bud in a beautiful teacup. Add one cup of boiling water and allow to steep for three to four minutes. Serve with honey or the sweet herb, stevia. Some people like a lemon wedge for a more tangy flavor. I prefer the pure lavender and sweet stevia, but each to her own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Garden Greens

The garden has grown by leaps and bounds! Fresh greens, onions, and radishes are being enjoyed by the family in fresh salads and soups. The peas, beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes are growing well as well with the tomatoes and peas starting to blossom. It's so much fun to watch a garden grow.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mourning Dove Pair

A pair of Mourning Dove's has set up housekeeping in our weeping cherry tree which sits right outside our family room window. We are able to observe all the comings and goings quite easily from our perspective. The Mourning Dove is a member of the dove family, Columbidae. These beautiful birds habitat ranges from Central American to southern Canada. Since we have been able to observe our Mourning Dove pair quite freely, I thought it would be interesting to learn more about this lovely pair. According to Wikipedia, the male leads the female to potential nest sites and the female will choose which one she wants. It is the female dove who builds the nest, a loose structure made from twigs, conifer needles, and blades of grass. The male flies about, gathering up material for the nest and bringing it to her. Generally a Mourning Dove clutch size is two eggs. They are small and white-colored. The male incubates the eggs from morning to afternoon. The female at night and for the rest of the day. Evidently they share quite freely in the parenting process. They are devoted parents and their nest is rarely left unattended. Incubation takes approximately two weeks. Once hatched, their young are very helpless with closed eyes and are downy covered. Both parents feed their young 'crop milk' that is produced in their intestine until the babies are gradually augmented by seeds and adult foods. The young remain in the nest for 11 - 15 days and then leave the nest, but remain near so their parents can continue to feed them for several more weeks. It is going to be interesting to observe this process! I hope the little ones remain nearby so we can watch them grow.

Growing Lavender Love

As I walked through my garden this afternoon I enjoyed observing the first of the lavender that is budding. The small hybrids in intense purples and the pretty white Alba lavender is budding, but not yet in full bloom. The fragrance is beautiful and it looks like the blossoms will be prolific this year.

The Grosso, Provence, and Hidcote lavenders are still setting out buds and are not blooming yet. These are the largest lavender plants and are growing abundantly this year. They should be ready to bud sometime in the beginning of June. These are the lavenders used most frequently for cooking, wands, and for their fragrance.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

The observance of Memorial Day as a U.S. holiday began in the 1860's as a remembrance to those who gave their lives in service to our country. It is not about division and warfare, but rather reconciliation and gathering together to honor those who gave their all. Additionally, some Americans choose to honor family members who have died on this holiday as well. Cemetaries are filled with flowers, flags, and visitors during this holiday. This holiday is also a time of picnics, camping trips, and family gatherings. Many view this holiday as the official beginning of summer and the camping season. Although this holiday isn't until Wednesday, May 30, it is observed by all Americans on the first Monday after the fourth week-end in the month and actually throughout the entire week-end.

Photo: by Copyright @ Brandon

Would you like a roasted veggie-dog? They really are yummy!

Rylan and Kyler visit awhile before taking the four-wheelers for a ride over mountain roads.
Levi and David share a rocking chair by fireside as they eat their hotdogs. They played hard all day and enjoyed their supper!
Brandon relaxes and soaks up some sunshine. Finals week is coming up soon and he's been busy with projects and papers due. I'm sure he enjoyed a day to rest from his study schedule.

Of course we had to celebrate Cousin Levi's eighth birthday. How quickly he's grown! Those packages contained a Lego set and an amazing set of bubbles. Blowing bubbles at the cabin is so much fun because of all the places to watch them float! Brandon and Rylan used to enjoy cabin bubble kits when they were little as well.
Brent, enjoying roasting a veggie dog for me. Half the fun is in the campfire roasting! He can't eat them because they contain gluten, but he shared with me. How sweet!
Just hanging out and enjoying the conversation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Wildflower Embroidery

Wildflowers can be so inspiring!

Through blogging I reconnected with a former college classmate (isn't it interesting how blogging connects the world?). Fay was interested in the embroidered tea towels that my tea towel swap group and I exchange. We've been chatting and she shared about a project she is working on. She is creating a series of wildflower designs for embroidery along with a coordinating watercolor painting that is suitable for framing. The first two are completed and she's ready to market them. The first is a yellow bell design, the second is a blue bell. Fay has two options for each design. One is for a tea towel and the other is for a small wall hanging, 8" x 10". Included are the font patterns for labeling and instructions for making both options.

If you are interested in obtaining patterns for these projects, you may send Gracious Hospitality an email. I'll be happy to share Fay's contact information with you.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Rooster Tea Towel

This week-end I received a nice package from Sandra. We were tea towel swap partners this month and she made me a beautiful 'rooster' tea towel. Her stitches are perfect and straight! She's using a true back stitch, which I realize that I have never attempted. It makes such a simple, and pretty outline stitch. Thank you, Sandra! I'm enjoying the lovely things you sent! I will treasure the tea towel.

Today's Roses

This morning as I walked through my garden, I found myself drawn to the roses. It's such a good year for beautiful blossoms. It's been pleasantly sunny but not too hot for them. This is the first bud on my Diana, Princess of Wales rose. I think this is my favorite rose; I know it is my most treasured. This rose bush is planted by the steps leading away from the back porch so I can enjoy it daily. It was a birthday gift to me from my friend, Nancy, in Orlando. She bought one for each of us so we could enjoy our twin roses from long distance. Isn't it beautiful?

This rose blooms with a hundred other blossoms on a bush that's planted right outside of the schoolroom door. I planted it there years ago when we were homeschooling the boys. They loved this rose because it is definitely 'masculine' when you think of it in their terms. The red and white reminded them of blood and all sorts of gory details that I won't mention. As they say, boys will be boys. I don't recall the name of this rose. It's a Jackson and Perkins brand, but I just call it 'The Boys Rose'.

The quest for a beautiful lavender rose blossom has been difficult. I've tried several and have been unhappy with strange coloring and easy bruising and marking. I finally found one I love! This is called Moon Shadow and is another Jackson and Perkins selection. I have it planted in an area where it is somewhat sheltered and receives both sunlight and shade at different parts of the day. I hope it continues to bloom so well as summer comes, as I would like to make a floral bouquet of Moon Shadow roses and lavender. Don't you think that would be pretty?

This rose blooms outside of my kitchen window. The plant is well established and the blossoms abundant. It is so cheerful and I enjoy looking out my kitchen window as I prepare meals or wash dishes and seeing these pretty blossoms. This rose is called Fragrant Cloud and is from Jackson and Perkins. Can you tell that I prefer that brand? They have such a wonderful guarantee and I've always had success with their plants.

Click here to see what else Jackson and Perkins has to offer. They have an excellent sale going on right now.

The Mushroom Hunt

The morel mushroom is a fungi that is much sought after for culinary purposes. Famous for use in French cuisine, it is hunted by thousands of individuals each year simply because they love their taste and the thrill of the hunt. Because this mushroom is not farmed successfully on a large scale, the commercial morel industry is based upon the harvest of wild mushrooms. During this time of year, mushroom hunters seek these tasty morsels by hiking mountain hillsides, looking for this treat. Families and small groups can be found along our mountain roadsides, looking for these treasures. So far, I haven't trusted my knowledge of mushrooms enough to indulge in this cooking adventure, but we have found morels in many areas in our woods. This week I even found this morel beside the pathway leading away from the kitchen door of the cabin. How much handier can you get than that? Mountain gossip (which is the best method of keeping up with happenings there) tells that many commercial mushroom hunters are searching the areas that were burned by the large forest fire of last summer. The morel is known to grow abundantly in the two and sometimes three years immediately following a forest fire. Until I have done a little more research on mushrooms that look like morels, I will continue to learn and keep my cabin frying pan empty. You can never be too careful when it comes to mushrooms! Who knows, maybe I have even misidentified the mushroom by the cabin kitchen door --- but it looks exactly like the ones I researched online. There's always something new to learn. . .experience. . .and share. Someday soon I hope to trust my knowledge of mushroom identification enough to try this tasty treat.

Click here for Google photos of morel mushrooms.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Such is Friendship

"Such is friendship that through it we love places and seasons; for as bright bodies emit rays to a distance, and flowers drop their sweet leaves on the ground around them, so friends impart favor even to the places where they dwell. With friends even poverty is pleasant. Words cannot express the joy which a friend imparts; they only can know who have experienced that joy. A friend is dearer than the light of heaven, for it would be better for us that the sun were extinguished than that we should be without friends."

St. John Chrysostom

Shooting Stars! They were found on a rocky slope yesterday and made a pretty little "growing bouquet". They were the first of the year and a delightful find! Although a common flower in our locale, they do not grow abundantly "just anywhere". Like with the Calypso Lady Slipper Orchids, it's always a treasure hunt to find them.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Study in Contrasts

The mountain today was a study in contrasts. Storms blow in and drift by quickly, leaving spots of sunshine or wafts of passing clouds. When we arrived at the cabin this morning it was snowing! Nothing was sticking, fortunately, but for several hours tiny snowflakes fell all around us. Cool, crisp air made a fire in the wood stove the first thing on our agenda!

Brent at Work

Brent's task for the day was to build a new wood shed and storage space. It will be nice to have a place to keep wood dry and for storage of the axe and shovels. Last week Brent placed all the treated posts in deep holes. Today he started connecting them into a framework.

Working diligently --- and very happily, I must say!

Stitch, Stitch, Stitch

Inside, the cabin was cozy and warm. With the drizzle outside, it was a good day for stitching.

I am trying to get caught up on my tea towel projects. Today's task was to hem and add lace trim to a tulip teacup tea towel I'm making for a friend.

With the hemming done and the lace trim added, this tea towel is ready for pressing and sending on it's way.

Flower Press

During breaks in the snow and rain, I wandered around in the woods, looking for new flowers and other things of interest. The meadow is a vivid green with white, purple, and yellow flowers. They seem to be the colors of our mountain. Have you ever wondered why there aren't very many pink flowers in the spring woods? The wild roses and Indian paintbrush bloom in early summer and will give a splash of pink then. I picked several types of wild flowers and brought them inside so I could press them.
The flower press was made by my dad. If I recall, he made it for my sister during her days as a biology student in college. It's simply a frame of wood that contains cardboard pieces, blotting paper, newspaper, and paper towel. The flowers are pressed in layers between the cardboard with the other papers cushioning them and absorbing moisture. It's all tied tightly together with a cord that keeps everything secure.

At this point the flower press is about half full. By the time we left for home I had every section filled with flowers of all sorts. It was bulging and I could hardly get the cord fastened to close everything inside! In about a week the flowers will be dried and the press can be refilled again.

Headed Home

The rain had stopped and the skies were cloudy with shards of light shining through. The trip down the mountain was beautiful as we observed shadows and light on the hillsides. This was a good day for wildlife --- we saw many deer, a coyote, and many squirrels and chipmunks. We saw no bear today. I think they were in hiding, and it's a good thing! There were bear hunters everywhere today! It's early bear season. Stay hidden, bears!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Garden Journey

May is the prettiest month of the year! It's not too hot, nor too cold, so the flowers are at their peak of perfection! Please join me in a little flower journey around my flower garden today. Roses, lavender, iris, lilies, pansies, and more greet the passerby with colorful cheer! Their very presence speaks volumes about the love our our creator!

A Walk in the Park

It's interesting to observe daily life while on a daily walk. Although our nearby park is usually quiet and sparsely populated during the week, it is alive with people and activity during the week-ends. Today was no exception. A dozen young marmots scrambled to a rocky bank from the grassy field they were romping in as we neared their territory. Boy Scouts were receiving awards in the amphitheater while family and friends looked on. A boat from 100 miles down the river was filled with grandparents, parents, kids, and dogs. They were packed up like they expected to go farther upriver before they headed home. Motor homes, campers, cozy fires, and children at play filled the campground. And of course the wildflowers along the shore were of interest and delight to me. The park activity was interesting and fun to observe today, but I look forward to the quietness of the week-days best. On those days you can hear the birds sing, watch the squirrels at play, and maybe, just maybe, the little marmots won't run away to hide!

Greeting Guests and Friends

A display at the park shared the hospitality of Lewis and Clark as they made their famous expedition to the west in search for an inland route to the Pacific Ocean. It was their custom to greet Native Americans along the way with a peace pipe and tobacco. Representing peace and friendship, it was an important part of their routine.

Aren't you glad that we don't have to smoke pipes these days when a guest comes to visit?

In what ways do you greet your guests and friends? Many cultures greet people with a handshake. Some with a hug. Europeans and Middle Easterners greet by kissing each other's cheeks. It seems to me that Hollywood greets this way as well.

How do you make your guests and friends feel most welcome in your home?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Vintage Rose Print Tote

Jill of Bailiwick Designs blog had a drawing on Mother's Day in celebration of her first anniversary of blogging. I added my comment to a long list of hopeful blog readers and was quite surprised when Jill contacted me to tell me I was the winner! Today my gift package arrived in the mail. And what a delightful package it was! In addition to this lovely tote, other gifts were included in the box.

All the gifts included with the vintage print roses tote were of a rose theme. Included was a beautiful sachet of rose potpourri, some French rose soap, and some delicious rose pastilles --- tiny candies that taste exactly like roses smell.

I am so impressed with the quality of workmanship that Jill does. Her stitches are even and beautiful with every detail just perfect! Her tote is handmade to perfection! Jill doesn't know that she would be graded on her gift --- and really she is not --- but I can't help to give her an A+ for her work! And a blue ribbon besides! Over the years I have graded hundreds of clothing construction projects for students --- and have been the sewing judge at the county fair. Jill deserves both the A+ and a blue ribbon for her exceptional craftsmanship.

Thank you, Jill, for your thoughtful gift.