Rubicon Trail Hike

A couple of weeks ago we drove up to Tahoe to hike one of our favorite, and THE most beautiful trail we know. Scenic views of Tahoe’s sapphire blue lake, stately green conifers, and crystal clear skies above us took our breath away as we made our way along the western shoreline.

This trail connects D. L. Bliss State Park with Emerald Bay State Park with the entire trail being 6 1/2 miles long if you go all the way to Vikingsholm Castle.  Hikers can go the entire distance or keep it shorter and turn around at any point. At an elevation of 6000 – 6500 feet you’ll not only experience astoundingly gorgeous vistas, but you’ll also experience majestic granite boulders, gentle waterfalls, and fun little rock caves along the way.

Mark Twain must have been right here when he said that Lake Tahoe’s air was pure enough for angels. This is the Rubicon Trail!

Gazpacho

The first day of fall was yesterday, but I’m still happily harvesting lovely amounts of garden goodness from my veggie garden. This time of year is ripe for puttering in the kitchen making salsas, tomato sauces, my favorite carrot-tomato soup and doing some freezing too, because honestly, isn’t it a treat to taste summer vegetables in winter?

Even though it’s late September and I’m starting to decorate the porch with pumpkins and everything autumn-themed, our temperatures have risen to the high 80s – low 90s and so today I’m making cold, healthy, flavorful Gazpacho. Basically, I’m just dicing and blending! What could be easier?

Gazpacho

Ingredients:

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 red onion, diced

1 large cucumber, diced

5 tomatoes, diced

1 zucchini, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

salt and pepper to suit your taste

1/4 gallon tomato juice

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/8 cup red wine vinegar

2 Tablespoons white sugar

6 dashes Tabasco

Preparation:

In the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, combine the minced garlic with half the red onion, half the tomato, half the zucchini, half the celery, half the tomato juice, olive oil, red wine vinegar, sugar, Tabasco, and a dash of salt.

Pulse until all ingredients are blended well; mixture will have a nice speckled, colorful texture.Put into a large bowl and add the rest of the tomato juice, and half of the remaining onion, cucumber, tomato, zucchini, and celery. Reserve the rest of the diced vegetables for garnish.

Stir mixture together and check seasonings, adding salt if needed. Chill soup for at least a couple of hours so flavors can meld.

Remove the soup from fridge and stir. Check seasonings one last time. Ladle into bowl and garnish with remaining diced vegetables. A few avocado cubes and fresh Italian Parsley are my favorite additional toppings. Use whatever you like.

Easy Peasy and so delicious!

Wildflower Season

“If you look the right way, you can see the whole world is a garden.” ~Frances Hodgson Burnette


It’s here! That time each year when the high country is covered in wildflowers. Time to grab your hiking boots and sun hat and get out among all the wonderful wildflower frenzy.

These photos were all taken in an area south of Highway 88 at Hope Valley called Blue Lakes. This cluster of lakes provides a perfect day trip destination just right for fishing, swimming, playing on the beach or hiking. And while you’re out there having all that summer fun, just open your eyes and take in the stunning beauty of all the wildflowers. You won’t be disappointed!Colorful, eye-catching and lush, Lupine, Meadow Penstemon, Phlox, Indian Paintbrush, Mule’s Ear, and more vibrant lovelies cover hillsides and meadows along the lakes. Knowing that these brilliant jewels have withstood storms without any tender loving care, and that they’re able to not only persevere through harsh weather but to actually flourish, is quite a lesson in resilience and an inspiration from nature.

Don’t forget your camera!

Celebrating the Red, White and Blue with Blueberry Pie

We recently took our nearly two year old grand daughter and drove to the nearby U-Pick Blueberries Farm at Rainbow Orchards for some delicious mountain grown fruit.  The early July morning was still cool and the farm was clean and well organized with rows of Chandler blueberries growing on one side  and rows of Duke blueberries lining the other half of the farm. What a treat we were in for! Ker-plink, Ker-plank, Ker-plunk, a sample here and there, and before we knew it our buckets were full of the most flavorful blueberries to share, snack on, and bake with.

Once back home we baked blueberry banana bread right away and then a couple days later, I made Ina Garten’s Fresh Blueberry Pie recipe for the fourth of July. I’m positive you’ll love the recipe as much as we did.

Fresh Blueberry Pie

Ingredients:

4 cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried

1/2 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 Tablespoon cassis liqueur (I substituted vanilla extract)

2 Perfect Pie crusts, recipe follows (best pie crust recipe ever!)

1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon milk or cream, for egg wash)

Perfect Pie Crust:

12 Tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) very cold unsalted butter

3 cups all purpose flour

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/3 cup very cold vegetable shortening such as Crisco

1/2 cup ice water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Mix the blueberries, the 1/2 cup of sugar, the flour, lemon zest, lemon juice, and cassis in a large bowl. Carefully ease one pie crust into a 9 inch pie plate, making sure not to stretch the dough at all, or it will shrink as the pie bakes. With a sharp knife, cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Spoon the blueberry mixture into the pie shell, scraping the bowl with a rubber spatula to be sure you have all the juices.

Brush the edge of the crust with the egg wash. Carefully lay the second crust on top, again easing it on to the pie. I chose to do a lattice top on mine. Cut the excess dough off at the edge of the pie plate. Press the two edges together with a fork. Brush the top crust with the egg wash, cut three slits for steam to escape, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 – 50 minutes, until the filling is very bubbly and the crust is nicely browned. Allow to cool and serve warm or at room temperature.

Perfect Pie Crust:

Cut the butter in 1/2 inch dice and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 – 12 times until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out onto a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well floured board into a circle at least one inch larger than the pie pan, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the board so it doesn’t stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, ease it into the pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Cut the dough one inch larger than the pan. Fold the edge over and crimp the edging.

So delicious! 

Coming Up for Air

This! This is how I’ve been feeling lately! Scattered? Yes. Overwhelmed? Absolutely.  Physically sore? Indeed. The outdoor to-do list seems endless during the spring months: unceasing weed pulling, starting seeds, working on new garden projects, assessing damage from winter and then replacing or moving the plants that aren’t faring well, and then there’s planting the vegetable garden beds, sprucing up this corner or that one, checking irrigation…phew! Now where in the world did I leave that shovel?

But here we are in mid June and as I look around I can breathe a deep sigh of relief. The maintenance will continue but we’ve made it through the spring garden chores frenzy. It does feel so good.

The air is fresh. Flowers and foliage are vibrant. Butterflies and hummingbirds are fluttering and swooping. Birds are singing. At last there’s time to sit and enjoy all the beauty in the June garden. I don’t want to miss a thing! Please join me in taking in all that’s going on in your garden too.

Here’s some of what’s blooming right now:

ClematisSpireaHollyhocks Roses, Hydrangeas, Fuchsias and Hostas.  Cheers to June!

An Iris Blossom Among Blooms

I haven’t always had a love affair with irises. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve forever found them beautiful, but I mostly admired them in other people’s gardens. All that changed nearly two summers ago when our third grand child was born… a precious baby girl who was given the name Iris. When she entered our lives I admit, I became a bit of a fanatic.

Two days after her birth, while reading the newspaper  I noticed that a local iris group was having a rhizome sale. Well, you can bet I quickly got myself ready for the day and headed out with Mr. Hollyhocks accompanying me to do some shopping. When we arrived at the community center for the sale I excitedly eyed the many tables set up with hundreds of baskets of rhizomes displayed, along with a beautiful photograph of each iris in bloom attached to the baskets. My husband decided to go for a walk while I shopped and came back thirty minutes later to find me with several grocery bags full of rhizomes and I had only covered half of the room. Yeah… and this is when I was quietly and lovingly given an intervention, a reminder that each rhizome cost anywhere from four to eight dollars, depending on the variety, and I had already bagged up about three hundred dollars worth. Even though I reminded him that I was buying rhizomes not only for me but for my daughter in law and her mom,  I quickly realized (even with my new infatuation) that I was going off the deep end. Next came the painful task of choosing which ones to put back. In the end I spent a little over a hundred dollars and potted up one container for my daughter in law, another for her mother, and the third, for me. Last year I bought about a dozen more and planted them in my garden in the fall and this year I can report that I’ve shown great restraint and haven’t  purchased any. I think I’ve got myself under control!

The last two Mother’s Days we’ve gone to a local Iris garden to wander, admire and picnic among these incredible beauties.You can understand my obsession, right? It’s all because of this little blossom! Tell me, gardening friends, have you ever had to have a gardening intervention? Be honest!

It Must be Spring

 

“…I waded out into the midst of the glorious field of gold. All the ground was covered, not with grass and green leaves, but with radiant corollas, about ankle-deep next to the foothills, knee-deep or more five or six miles out…Sauntering in any direction, hundreds of these happy sun plants brushed against my feet at every step, and closed over them as if I were wading in liquid gold. ~John Muir

A sure sign of spring here in the golden state is the brilliant show of our native California poppy (Eschscholzia, californica) blooms brightening hillsides, meadows, roadways and landscapes of all kinds. With delicate cup-like blossoms and feathery foliage, these colorful beauties start adding vibrance to our days in February or March and often last into June.

Glorious fields of gold, indeed!

Happy spring!


Hearts in the Yard

Rusty wheel barrows, angels, bird houses, gnomes, mosaics, shells, flea market finds of old garden tools – don’t you just love the effect of collections in a garden? Great conversation starters, these salvaged pieces, collectibles, crafts and gathered items found in nature all tell a story and make our spaces more interesting. They give visitors to our gardens a greater sense of who we are, and I know mine bring a certain comfort to me as I’m out in the yard. Vintage European watering cans, nests, heart art, and yes, no surprise, heart shaped rocks…why, these are some of the treasures you’ll find at my home.

For many years I have collected heart shaped rocks found on hikes and walks. I’ve brought them home carefully wrapped in my luggage from my travels. Some are from Ireland, Scotland, England, Mexico, British Columbia, beaches and forests and sometimes even on a crowded street. These little love notes from nature are everywhere. Sometimes I’m surprised to find a gift of a heart rock waiting for me on my porch from neighbors who spot one and feel they belong with me. I try to remember to write on the back of each with a sharpie of where they came from, but I have a long way to go with this goal. These love rocks of all sizes fill various vessels scattered around my outdoor rooms. The heart art, along with all of the heart shaped rocks nestle in window boxes, garden beds, and pots, hang from trees or fenceposts. Who am I kidding? You can’t miss them!
Many of my heart treasures were either hand made (a few by me) or by my loved ones and given to me as gifts. To be reminded of the gift bearer as I wander and work in the yard makes the gift that much sweeter.

Even the dog kennel get’s decorated with heart art!Whether your collections and garden art are fanciful and fun, eclectic, or on the romantic side (or maybe a bit of each), I hope you display them and let your beautiful personality shine through amongst the flowers, plants and trees. I know I’d love to see your treasures!

Love Sweet Love

In honor of Valentine’s Day, as well as all that’s going on in our world, I’m sharing some recent heart finds and some of my favorite quotes on love. Let’s make a pact to be extra good to each other. Let’s hold the people we love a little tighter and tell them how much they mean to us. Let’s go out of our way to help and be kind to everyone we encounter. Go Be Love; the world needs you.

“May my heart be your shelter and my arms be your home. May we walk together through all things. May you feel deeply loves. for indeed you are. May you always see your innocence in my eyes. I give you my heart. I have no greater gift to give.” ~Marianne Williamson

“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.” ~ Mother Teresa

“The world is absolutely starved for love. In whatever way you can, and wherever you can, go and feed some people.” ~John Pavlovitz

“Do a deed of simple kindness; though its end you may not see. It may reach, like widening ripples, down a long eternity.” ~Joseph Norris

“What is done in love is well done.” ~Vincent Van Gogh

“Your body is away from me, but there is a window open from my heart to yours.” ~ Rumi

“All that is worth cherishing begins in the heart.” ~Suzanne Chapin

“Where there is great love there are always miracles.” ~Willa Cather

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” ~Helen Keller

“When you seek love with all your heart, you shall find its echoes in the universe.” ~Rumi 

“You will see in the world what you carry in your heart.” ~Creig Crippen

“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ~ Rumi“And I say to my heart: rave on.” ~Mary Oliver

Gifts of January

Even though I know many folks are counting down the days until spring, I’m not quite ready for that yet. I’m still enjoying taking morning walks bundled up with a thick coat, gloves, hat, and scarf on. I’m making a cozy fire in the wood stove each evening and cooking hearty dinners. There’s more time to curl up on the couch under a soft throw blanket with a good book and a hot cup of English Breakfast tea or work on an indoor project.

Our winter has been mild so far and its highly likely that if we were having severe winter weather I very well would be wishing for the color and warmth of spring, but instead, I’m seeing gifts.

This month I’ve been appreciating the delicate beauty and peace that winter brings: intricate shapes of bare branches, patterns and colors of foliage, and the interesting elements of the various barks of trees. I don’t tend to notice these things so much in other seasons. I’m smiling over the winter blossoms of narcissus, cyclamen, snowdrops, pansies, primroses, and… in my book, the queen of winter blooms, daphne.

And if that’s not enough, just drop what you’re doing and go outside to take in the splendid sight of the full, blue moon tonight. Two full moons this month! Ahh yes, nature in any season is full of beauty and gifts. We just have to open our eyes.