Thursday, July 30, 2009

What Counts

Silences make the real conversations between friends. Not the saying but the never needing to say is what counts.

~ Margaret Lee Runbeck ~

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cool as a Cucumber

We are having a real heat streak in the west. Record breaking temperatures are making life somewhat miserable at times. Afternoon breaks in the shade (or naps), cool and refreshing beverages, and air conditioning if available are all ways to cope. The weeds in the garden grow, but it's way too hot to work outside for very long! Let them grow! Fortunately the vegetables thrive in the heat too, sometimes growing larger than we really wish they would. Oversized cucumbers are wonderful when used to combat the heat. Simply slice them and put them in a gallon jar. Fill with pure water and allow to sit in the fridge for twenty-four hours. Then, pour some over a glass of ice. So good! Add mint, rosemary, ginger or sweet basil if you'd like. Be creative and have fun!

Here's Jill's recipe for staying as cool as a cucumber! She says:

My fav is cucumbers, a bit of parsley, a dash of salt and pepper, plain yogurt and lots of ice blended together. Heat survival special!

Hope's Feathers

"Hope" is the thing with feathers ---
That perches in the soul ---
And sings the tune without words ---
And never stops --- at all.

Emily Dickinson

Photo: Elm Street Antiques

Monday, July 27, 2009

Making Jelly Punch

Tea time beverages don't have to be 'only tea'. There are many other delicious drinks that can be served in a teacup. Children, especially, will enjoy something sweet and cool in their teacup. In the summertime, chilled drinks are welcome and perfectly acceptable served with a cup and saucer. What better than jelly punch to make a tea party perfect!

There is no limit to combinations and types of drinks that can be made with something as simple as melted jellies! In my pantry there's jelly in many flavors --- lavender, yellow violets, grape, and more. Each can be made into a easy Jelly Punch, a delicious teatime treat! Here's the simple recipe:

Jelly Punch

2 cups boiling water
1 jelly jar of jelly
1/2 cup sugar (or the sweet herb, stevia to taste)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice

Place the jelly in a pitcher or jar. Pour boiling water over the jelly and let it sit until the jelly is dissolved. Stirring will help to speed the process. Once the jelly is completely dissolved, add the sugar and lemon juice. Cover and place in the fridge to chill. Just before serving, dilute with ice and additional water to taste. Each flavor of jelly will require a varying amount of water, to taste. Grated lemon rind can be added for zest.

If lemon juice is not available, other acidic juices can be used instead. Try orange juice, rhubarb juice, or a small amount of apple cider vinegar. Lemon juice, though, enhances the distinctive flavors of the fruits that it is put with.

It's jelly-tea-time!

Photo: at Paula's place on Elm Street.

Spirit of Love

You will find, as you look back upon your life, that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love.

~ Henry Drummond ~

Photo: Elm Street Antiques

Sunday, July 26, 2009



You love the roses - so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet: and it would be
Like sleeping and yet waking, all at once.

~ George Eliot ~

Art in the Park

Gentle breezes from the river and the coolness of tall trees buffered the heat for those attending the a local arts and crafts show in the park. People came in hordes to attend this annual event. Handmade jewelry, pottery, garments, aprons, lawn ornaments, photography, paintings, crocheted hats, soaps, linens, and more, more, more. How very creative some people can be! Chatting with vendors and visiting with friends from the community was an added bonus to this artistic day for many.

Do you have an annual arts and crafts show in your community? Do you attend? Do you sell your wares there? What are your favorites? Is this something you look forward to each year? I'd love to know! Please share. . .

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Surprise in a Bottle

Do you feel adventurous? If so, may I suggest a tea experience like none other? It was recommended to me by our youngest son, and I bravely tried it at his suggestion. After the initial shock (it doesn't taste like I thought tea should taste), I decided that I really liked it! It's refreshing, sparkly, flavorful, and has strong tea undertones. What is it? Kombucha Wonder Drink!

Kombucha Wonder Drink is a sparkling Himalayan tonic. It comes 'plain' or in a variety of flavors. May I suggest the flavors? I haven't braved the 'plain' version yet, The one I'm having at this moment is Asian Pear & Ginger Blended with Oolong Tea. It's certified organic and very interesting. This tonic is said to promote wellness. Popular in Asian for centuries, it's popularity has spread throughout Eurasia and has made it's way west. It is high in anti-oxidants, immune system enhancers, and natural detoxifiers. It can be described as "crisp", "effervescent", and "charming". Serve chilled for an awesome summer treat! But be warned, it is a surprise in a bottle!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Cutie Pie!

This is a melt-your-heart moment! Isn't Jacob growing up to be a cutie-pie? You can call little boys that when they are this small. In future years he probably appreciate a more masculine, descriptive term. But even now, he's all boy. There were no smiles except for one this day, but that's alright, he's sweet as a solemn one as well.

Posted especially for you, Paula! May your grandma heart go pitter-pat!

C o o l, Clear WATER

With temperatures in the triple digits, the importance of water is enhanced. Clear, cool, refreshing --- pure water is such a blessing! Lucy thinks so too! She loves chasing the pool brush and retrieving toys for Karleen. It seems she could swim forever. Such a faithful friend, her temperament is 100% GOLDEN retriever, even though she is as black as coal. With that dark coat, it's no wonder she enjoys the coolness of the pool!

Karleen is wondering how many laps around the pool make a mile. Hmmmm --- quite a few, I think!

This week we were reminded of water's importance, and of what it would be like living without! The pump in our well finally wore out (it has served us splendidly) and it had to be replaced. It was a day without laundry, dish washing, showers, and even drinking water. I remembered Clarice's sweet post about her outdoor washing station. After a trip to Karleen's with our blue plastic jugs for water, we set up a washing station outside as well. But it wasn't nearly as pretty as Clarice's, so no pictures! I am thankful for the excellent service of the pump company! We had water by the end of the day and are now enjoying it with even more appreciation.

Water also serves us in ways me might not think about. This is the view from Karleen's deck. On this day, more than three tugs with barges were vying for space as they were going up the river for wheat and bringing it down-river again on the way to the ocean. The huge piles of wheat in the background have been created as trucks from wheat harvest unload their golden cargo into huge piles. Over time (throughout the winter) these huge piles are reduced as it is loaded onto barges and shipped to ports on the coast. On a trip into town, wheat trucks are common on the highways along the way. Although our area grows dry-land wheat (no irrigation water necessary), water is very important for wheat's transportation.

Thank you, Lord, for WATER!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lavender Bundles

What is is about lavender bundles that makes it so enticing?

Is it the pungent fragrance? Or the beauty of it's compact purple bud?

Maybe it's the keeping qualities that makes it easy to dry and retain for months to come. Whatever it is, I am no different than anyone else. I am always drawn to lavender bundles and seem to always need to bring one home!

I hope y'all are having a sweet day!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Teatime Treasures

Paula and Terri returned from "the world's largest antique show" earlier this week. New vintage treasures fill their shop shelves! What fun it was to browse, looking for new things. China and accoutrement's for tea, chenille, roses on bark cloth, old linens, vintage garments, a Victorian lamp, and more have been put on display. Their new 'tea themed' display is especially nice. A miniature tea set, silver spoons, tea strainers, and a darling sugar cube tray --- all speak of gracious times and gentle hospitality. It's always fun to visit after the go to market!

Distilling Lavender Essential Oils

Lavender's essential oil is fragrant, concentrated, and expensive. In it's natural form, it can be used to enhance potpourri, added to sachets, used in cooking, or dripped directly into bath water. It is favored in aromatherapy for it's relaxing and tranquil qualities. Observing lavender essential oils being processed through distillation helps one realize why an ounce of lavender oil costs as it does. To make lavender oil, the flowers are harvested when approaching full bloom. Left on the stems, they are loaded into a distiller pot which is then sealed. Steam is applied using low pressure into the bottom of the pot, causing the essential oils to be released from the plant. The steam exits through a tube in the lid of the pot. It is fed through a condenser where it is cooled into a liquid. From there the liquid goes into a separator which divides the liquid into water and oil. The water sinks to the bottom, the oil floats onto the top. The lavender water is drained off and discarded (although sometimes this by product is saved and packaged as lavender water for steam irons and such). The lavender essential oil that remains gathered into a beaker and from there bottled for use. It is interesting to observe the process. Much lavender goes into the process of making a little bit of essential lavender oil.

Enjoying Lavender

There are so many ways to enjoy lavender. My favorite is to leave it in the garden and admire the blossoms on the plants all summer long. But lavender keeps well when dried, and if you want to enjoy its beauty in other months as well, there are ways to preserve it. An example is the wreath shown above. It's easy to make. Simply create a form out of wire (like a strong clothes hanger) and form it into a square. Then, take small bundles of lavender and secure them with a rubber band. Use floral wire to secure the lavender bundles to the wire, and you are done! Add a wire to hang with and hang it up to dry. The lavender wreath in the picture is still fresh. As it dries it will retain the shape you see.

Lavender is pretty hung with other herb bundles as well. If you have beams on a ceiling or a drying rack, herb bundles can be dried and look pretty in the process. They should be set to dry in a place that is out of direct sunlight. And since the bundles will shrink as they dry, be sure to use elastic or a rubber band to hold the bundle together. They can be hung by a pretty ribbon or a bend paper clip (which works very well).

Lavender can be enjoyed with tea and is pretty when used as a part of the tea decor in your china closet. Lavender bud can be mixed with sugar and set in a pretty jar to infuse. Most people will tell you to sift the bud out when ready to use, but I prefer to leave it in, thinking that lavender bud floating in tea is quite pretty. Lavender bud can also be placed in a saucer, bowl, or on a tea tray to be displayed with your china.

Lavender makes wonderful soaps, oils, and lotions. Each lavender farm has their own formulation and unique ways of using their product. Candles are another beautiful way to use lavender. Adding dried bud to the wax when molding makes a very pretty candle! Don't worry if it sinks to the bottom half. It only makes it prettier! If you enjoy making beeswax candles, simply roll in lavender bud after your candle is rolled. The sticky properties of the beeswax will hold the lavender bud on very well. No glue necessary!

Sachets, bundles, lavender wands, lavender bottles, and lavender dryer bags are all fun ways to enjoy lavender throughout the year. If the fragrance seems to subside, just squish and squeeze the lavender to release the oils and renew it's fragrance. It's still there, just hidden by gentle use. Some say that lavender's fragrance is enhanced by age. If you decide to use lavender bud in a dryer bag, be sure it's securely tied or stitched! I learned the hard way! The linens smelled wonderful, but the lavender bag opened in the dryer and I had lavender bud all over the place! The lavender that made it to the dryer vent blew around with each cycle, creating a funny sound! It required the removal of the dryer and a vacuum cleaner and one husband to get it fixed again. I don't think he was overly impressed with the awesome fragrance of the linens!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Lavender's Powers of Socialization

There's something about lavender that promotes socialization. The fragrance, the soft colors, the beauty of this plant, and the farm it is grown on promote relaxation and time with friends. Actually, I've never found a stranger at a lavender farm! This common interest promotes chatter, sharing, and time together.

Umbrellas and chairs, picnic tables, shady spots with green grass, and cute little nooks and corners all create places to spend time with others. A cup of lavender lemonade, a picnic lunch, or some delicious chocolate-lavender ice cream are all things that are easily shared in such a soothing setting.

Spending time cleaning lavender bud, creating small lavender bundles to be used on wreaths, or weaving wands or lavender baskets are all activities that can be observed on a lavender farm. If you are looking for the perfect 'spa' day, you might consider the aromatherapy factor and visit a lavender farm with a friend. Tranquility!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Advice Bucket

“We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.”

William R. Alger

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Visiting Meg at Crabapple Hill

Last week Karleen called and asked, "What are you doing today?". "Hmmmm, dishes, some laundry, and a bit of weeding in the yard. Why?" She responded with "How about coming with me on a part of the quilt hop? Crabapple Hill Studios is open to participants this week." That's all it took! I forgot about everything else. Crabapple Hill Designs are my favorite embroidery designs and are especially famous in our area. Meg's studio isn't open to the public, selling instead to quilt shops and online internationally, but she made an exception this year for this special event. It was even better than I imagined! Our adventure started when Karleen picked me up and we headed for a quilt shop in town. There we received our 'secret' instructions and an address. Using the GPS TomTom really helped as we maneuvered from one freeway to the next, finally taking a winding country road until we saw the sign "Quilt Hop" printed on a banner and attached to a fence! A long driveway wound about until we ended up in front of an inviting and cozy studio. Flowering plants and a sign welcomed us from the outside. Inside, cheerful voices and smiling faces greeted us with graciousness. Yes, I was welcome to take pictures for my blog! Yippee! I knew that blog readers would enjoy this little tour. I especially thought of Elizabeth from Turtle Cottage, who stitches daily and loves Meg's designs. Displays of beautiful designs and sample projects, patterns galore, three types of embroidery floss in any color you could imagine, and more were a feast for the eyes. It was difficult to choose between serious shopping and visiting with the pleasant ladies who were working there. I left feeling I did a little of both, but not near enough of either one! Crabapple Hill Studios is my kind of place! Please check out the Crabapple Hill Studio website for awesome designs and project ideas. And if you really love hand-stitching like I do, you'll enjoy Meg's blog, Knot-y Girl's Stitchery Club as well. Now, off to start a new embroidery project --- shall I start on tea towels or a wall hanging? I'm trying to decide. In the meantime, enjoy the slide show. Be sure to go 'full screen' and turn on the sound!

After Gardening Soak

It's July --- which means the weeds are growing in the garden --- and need pulled so we can continue to enjoy the beautiful flowers and veggies we planted last spring. It also means it's quite hot outside. Aches and pains are intensified with all the sweat and labor. Here's a simple recipe for the bath to help sooth your muscles and help you relax. Enjoy a warm soak while sipping on a glass of iced Strawberry & Lavender Lemonade.

After Gardening Soak

1/4 cup lavender, dried
1/4 cup rosemary, dried
1/4 cup eucalyptus, dried

Pour 4 cups of boiling water over herbs and allow to steep for 20 minutes or longer. Remove herbs and add the liquid to bath water. Relax and enjoy. Be soothed!

Strawberry & Lavender Lemonade

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 large strawberries
1 tablespoon lavender flowers, dried
2 1/2 cups water
2 1/4 cups lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar
Fresh lavender flower stems for garnish

Combine 2 1/2 cups water, sugar, and strawberries in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. After sugar dissolves, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes more. Remove from heat. Stir in lavender flowers and cover. Allow mixture to cool. Then, strain into a large pitcher, mashing the strawberries as you strain. Add the additional water with the lemon juice and stir well. Pour into tall glass over ice and garnish with a long stem of lavender and bud. Enjoy!

[Click on the photo if you'd like a larger view]

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harvesting, Drying, and Cleaning Lavender

Harvesting, Drying, and Cleaning Lavender

Lavender should be harvested when right before the flowers blossom. It's the lavender bud that is desirable for culinary and fragrance purposes. Watch the lavender bud as it develops, waiting until it is full and prolific, but not blossomed out yet. To harvest, gather a bundle of lavender stems in your hand, and then with a pair of kitchen shears or a cutter, cut the bundle. It's desirable to have a stem of 12 or more inches. Tie together with an elastic band and hang upside down to dry. If some of the lavender stems have started to blossom, the petals will fall to the floor. These can be swept up and discarded. Once the bundle is completely dry, remove it from the drying rack. Working over a bucket or large container, remove the dried lavender bud from the stems. It's helpful to wear cotton gloves when doing this to protect your hands. Discard the stems. Clean the lavender by removing large pieces of stems and leaves. You can do this by placing over a large screen or by picking them out one by one. Then it's time to work the lavender bud to get only the best part, discarding the other non-desirable bits and pieces that are too small to pick out by hand. And old window screen works well for this task. With your hands, work the lavender over the screen, allowing lavender dust and other particulates through the mesh. When you are done cleaning a portion of lavender bud, all you'll have left on the screen is the good lavender bud for culinary and fragrance purposes. It's clean and fragrant! The dust that went through the screen can be discarded along with the blossoms, bits, and pieces that you cleaned out previously. And that --- is how you work lavender to get the best for you! And a reminder, if you use lavender for culinary purposes, please make sure it's organic!

Lavender Tub Tea

A hot cup of tea can be enhanced by adding a pinch of lavender bud. After a few minutes of steeping, the essence of pungent lavender fills the cup and pleases the taste buds. It's an acquired taste for some, but one I take great pleasure in. I find it so delightful. But sipping on a cup of hot tea is not the only way to enjoy lavender tea. Soaking in a luxurious bath of lavender tub tea is sure to relax the body and boost the spirit! Water has long been known to sooth our cares. It washes away stress and worry, and helps us gain new perspective on life. Herbs like lavender help create the perfect tub tea for days when this luxury is enjoyed. To create this homemade luxury, create a base by filling a jar with a combination of one or more of these common household items: soy milk powder, Epsom salts, sea salt, or oatmeal. Then add several tablespoons of lavender bud and lid. When ready to use, sprinkle generously into a bathtub of hot water, just as it is beginning to fill. The fragrance will be magnified by the heat and steam, creating a spa-like environment that is hard to resist. For added fragrance, other herbs can be added along with the lavender bud as well. You might try rose petals, calendula blossoms, dried lemon balm, or chamomile. A drop or two or three of pure essential lavender oil can enhance this tub tea further. If you like, the tub tea blend can be sprinkled right into the bath water, but if you don't want to be bothered with cleaning bits and pieces of herbs from the tub later, place the blend in a small muslin bag or put in the center of a washcloth and fold corners upwards, securing with a rubber band or hair twisty. Let the magnesium in the salts relax sore muscles, the anti-itch qualities of the oatmeal sooth your skin, or the creamy smoothness of the soy milk revitalize each pore. The fragrance of lavender will fill your senses with tranquility and carry you away to a place in your dreams! But do use care if falling asleep in the tub.

A recipe for lavender tea, the beverage, can be found HERE.

Photos: Vanessa's front porch which is right next door to Karen's lavender farm! No need to steep lavender bud in a tub at their houses! Everything smells like fragrant lavender there! I wonder if they all have lower blood pressure than neighbors that live a few miles away?

Spicy Plum-Lavender Chutney

Spicy Plum-Lavender Chutney

5 pounds purple plums, ripened
1 medium onion, finely chopped
grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon whole yellow mustard seed
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons lavender bud

Pit plums and cut into 1/2 inch wedges. Place in a saucepan. Add onion, lemon, ginger, mustard seed, redd pepper flakes, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and gently stir in lavender. Place in pint jars and refrigerate (up to one month) or jar and process according to manufacture's directions. Makes 3 pints.

Chutney: similar to a relish, salsa, or pickled condiment; a sweet and condiment usually involving fresh fruits or vegetables and spices.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Lavender Wands

Lavender Wands

Lavender wands are the perfect way to enjoy the stems of lavender without a mess. The bud is encased in stems and ribbon, allowing the beautiful fragrance to be evident for years ahead without the tiny blossoms and buds drying and falling on the floor or drawer. Instead of fading over time, the fragrance of lavender is actually enhanced by age. If it seems to be gone, just give it a little squeeze to release the fragrant oils.

To see HOW lavender wands are made, visit the instructions and pictures previously given HERE.
Scroll down to the second post and read on. . .

Lavender wands sound exotic, but they are really very easy to make! Fun!

Lavender Love

Did Gracious Hospitality readers think that they might get through lavender season without a lavender post or two? Were you hoping? Yes or no! Anyone who knows me well, knows that afternoon tea and lavender are two of my favorite things! The lavender in my garden is past the bud stage and is in full bloom by now. Honeybees have found it, and someone, somewhere will be getting some delicious lavender honey! This year, no lavender has been harvested (it should be harvested at the bud stage). I'm enjoying the purple blossoms filling bits of space all over the yard instead. Lavender's silvery hue creates a tranquil mood everytime it's viewed --- and that mood multiplies each time hands squeeze the blooms when passing by.

Check back soon for lavender craft and recipe ideas.

Photo: Karen's Lavender Farm

It's Pesto Season

Fresh Basil Pesto

The garden basil is growing well. Although I only have six plants this year, I have been able to harvest enough to make some pesto and put it in the freezer for winter use. I hope my pesto plants continue to grow abundantly so I can make more. Last year this recipe was such a success that we ran out well before winter was over.
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup pine nuts (or walnuts)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until nuts are ground. Don't overprocess, as some texture is desired. Add more salt to taste if necessary.

Divide into 1/4 or 1/3 cup portions and place in small jelly jars or zip-lock bags. Freeze until ready to use. When ready for a meal, allow to thaw partially and add to cooked pasta.

For variety, add about 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes.

Wild Violets

Spring is gone and blooming violets in the valley are past, but mountain violets still abound. The yellow grow most abundantly, covering clearings in meadows and gracing banks along the dirt roads. But, if you look carefully, sweet and tiny lavender violets can be found. They grow in interesting places, like at the edge of a dirt bank, or beside a rotting log. Their blossoms are as tiny as your littlest fingernail, but so sweet to behold.

It's interesting to learn about the meaning of flowers. Violets represent such desirable qualities. Representing humility, the blue or purple violet speaks of faithfulness and loyalty. The yellow violet specifically illustrates the chance for happiness in life. Ancient Roman legend tells of beautiful maidens whom cupid announced as more beautiful than Venus. In her anger, Venus beat these maidens until they turned blue and were transformed into violets. Such a sad story, when you think about it. I prefer the image of God creating these gentle flowers in the beginning and the idea that Adam and Eve named them violets because the pretty name went so well with this sweet flower. Legend says that if a person dreams about violets, they will move forward with success in life. And violet flowers are always considered a symbol of blessing for any woman.

No matter what the legend or blessing, violets are sweetest of the sweet when it comes to woodland flowers. Little violet nosegays are a joy to behold!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Persist in Doing

That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.

Heber J. Grant

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Crepes with Strawberries and Powdered Sugar

Crepes with Strawberries and Powdered Sugar

Summer is a great time for lighter food fare. Crepes with strawberries, lightly sprinkled with powdered sugar, created a delicious supper earlier this week. Ours were made with cornstarch instead of all-purpose flour to accommodate the need for gluten-free in our family. Delicious!

1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons agave syrup
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour**
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Blend together soy milk, water, olive oil, and agave syrup. Then add flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix well. If desired, cover and chill for two hours. Heat a skillet and prepare by placing soy margarine in the pan and melting it. With a paper towel, wipe off excess margarine. Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the skillet. Swirl, covering the skillet's bottom. Cook until golden on the bottom and dry on top. Flip to the other side and cook briefly. Fold in half and then half again. Remove from pan and place on platter. Arrange in a row as prepared.

When done, cover with:

2 pints strawberries, sliced
stevia to sweeten as desired*
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. orange extract

Arrange beautifully on top of crepes and then sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.
Serve and enjoy!

*I used 3 packets of NuNaturals Stevia and 1/2 dropper filled with NOW Stevia Glycerite.

**To make gluten-free, replace flour with cornstarch. About 1/4 tsp. of xanthan gum may be necessary to assist with binding (or egg replacer for 4 eggs).

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Little Garden

"A little garden in which to walk, and immensity in which to dream. At one's feet that which can be cultivated and plucked; overhead that which one can study and meditate upon: some herbs on earth, and all the stars in the sky."

Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885)

Kitchen Gardens

Finding a restaurant in a tiny little town with a kitchen garden right next door is unusual in these parts. So, when we drove thought a tiny little town recently, and I saw a kitchen garden next to a trendy restaurant on Main Street, I requested we stop so I could take some pictures. Simple and elegant, it featured pots of herbs and a trellis or two for beans to grow on. Rows and clusters of cabbages and garden greens, carrots and radishes, and vines of squash and cucumbers were set in a grassy space. A nearby table, convenient for harvest and cleaning, sat nearby. Right next door was a covered patio with seating for dining alfresco. Colorful table clothes, comfortable chairs, and a bubbling waterfall added to the ambiance --- as did the kitchen garden across the fence. A side door leads to more formal dining options. But, who would want to eat inside when such beauty and serenity greet the guest in this pretty place?

An old adage says that "The kitchen garden is the best of all gardens". The kitchen garden is a home garden where vegetables, herbs, berries, and fruits are grown and used for food. Generally, it is small enough to be cultivated with hand tools and a little elbow grease! Ideally, it is easy accessible from the kitchen or back door of the house for convenience and ease. A well-planned kitchen garden may provide fresh herbs for seasoning dishes for every month of the year. Sage, winter savory, hearty rosemary and parsley can be harvested even in the winter in some locales. Although kitchen gardens for restaurants or gourmet cooks are fashionable, a kitchen garden can be handy for the three-meal-a-day household cook. Using home-grown produce and herbs can add fun, flavor, and nutrition to family meals. Have you planted your kitchen garden? It's not too late!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

My Wild Garden

Gardens at home should be weeded, tended, and manicured to some extent. At least mine requires that. So, a garden in the mountains is refreshingly simple and fun to enjoy. Native ferns, a shrub oak, lupines, and clovers grow with grasses along the cabin's edge. A bank of wild strawberry plants grow on the east side, thick and wild. Their tiny berries are no larger than my littlest fingernail. A wild rose shrub stands nearby, gracing us with soft, pink roses and then nutrient rich rose hips. Varieties of lavender from the valley below are planted the native plants, seemingly thriving through cold winters and hot summers and surviving elk and deer which nibble most every other plant from home, but don't like the astringent fragrance of lavender. Antlers found on the woodland floor, lava rock, basalt, dead wood, and other found objects are displayed with plants in a reckless and casual manner. Feathers from crows, wild turkeys, and grouse, when found, are stuck into a flower pot, waving to all who enter the front door. Little care and lots of pleasure. God is good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Too Cute!

Some things are just too cute for words! Featuring Paula's darling grandson. . .such sweetness!

The Little Things. . .

Little details make a special occasion, like weddings, even more delightful. I'm finding that the weddings attended in which the guest is treated with grace and thoughtfulness are the most memorable. Yes, a wedding is for the bride and groom, but in a sense they are hosting a special event that brings many from far and wide, and at great expense for some. Showing care for the guest creates an atmosphere of mutual love and respect. In this case, the little details become great tokens of thoughtfulness. It's the little things, like having a photographer take a photo of each guest as they arrive for a wedding album or having cold tea and lemonade for the guests while they are waiting for wedding photos to be taken before the reception starts, that makes guests feel valued and as though they are an important part of a special day. Tokens don't need to be expensive or large. Something homemade or handmade can express great care in a simple way. I'm appreciating raspberry-rhubarb jam and apple-cinnamon toast topper in their beautifully decorated jars right now, and will open them and enjoy them later in a completely different way. Yum! Each bite will take me back to Andrew's and Annalisa's special day. They absolutely made each guest feel special and valued at their wedding celebration.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Berry of a Cake

Isn't this a beautiful cake? I wanted to share a picture with you, as I think this is a great idea for decorating all kinds of cakes! Raspberries, blueberries, and Marion berries along with a cluster of small, smooth berries on a stem (I don't know what kind they were), arranged strategically on this cake. Placed at corners and in an artful arrangement on the top, this beautiful wedding cake inspires! The same idea can be used to decorate birthday cakes, cupcakes, or cheesecake. Berry sweet!

Making Iced Tea

Making Iced Tea for a Hot Summer Day

For tea lovers, hot weather creates a
dilemma. Is it too hot for a hot cuppa? Learning to make a refreshing glass of iced tea can be a delightful alternative. Here are some suggestions and tips for creating that perfect glass of ice, cold tea!

The rules for tea making apply to both hot and cold tea, but when making iced tea use 50% more tea to allow for melting ice. Normally 4 teaspoons of tea would be used to make 4 cups of hot tea. But, to make 4 glasses of iced tea, you should use 6 teaspoons of tea. Some people even double this amount to 8 teaspoons.

To make 2 quarts of iced tea:

* bring one quart of water to a full boil and remove from heat

* immediately add 1/3 cup of loose tea

* stir and cover, allowing to stand for 5 minutes

* when done steeping, stir again into a 2-quart pitcher

* add an additional quart of very cold water

* serve in tall glasses over ice

* garnish with a lemon wedge or mint leaf if desired

[The same rules apply to herbal tisanes.]

The Hills

"He covers the sky with clouds; he supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills."

Psalm 147:8

Photo: Mt. Hood, Oregon at Dusk

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Log Cabin

Although there are many beautiful quilt patterns, nothing pleases me more than a log cabin quilt. There is something that always draws me back to this beautiful design. Recently I was the guest in a home where not one, but two beautiful log cabin quilts were displayed in the guest room. They were stunning in a comfortable and folksy way. Americans have long considered that this pattern is purely American, but research shows that this design goes back to old England and even before to ancient Egypt. In the early 19th Century, many tombs in Egypt were opened and thousands of small animal mummies were found --- wrapped in strips of linen with the Log Cabin design pattern on them. I wonder what the Egyptians called this design? For sure, it wasn't 'log cabin'! The resurgence of this design in Early American history illustrates that red centers are traditional and common as the center of each log cabin square. Each red square represents a glowing, warm hearth. The light values on one side represent the sunny side of the house, the dark values represent the shady side. Many quilts in this design were stitched in the early 19th Century when pioneers were heading west after the Civil War period. It really is a 'little-house-on-the-prairie' design! I've stitched a log cabin quilt for my family, and I have enjoyed observing those of others over the years. The oldest I've enjoyed is one I found on display at an old fort from the Civil War era. And yes, the centers were the traditional red, made in wool, and the light and dark strips were constructed of uniforms of army soldiers. What a historic piece it represents and what a story it tells. Is there a log cabin quilt in your personal history?