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.

 

 

 

 

 

Soups On!

January is moving along quickly, and even though it has been a mild winter for us so far, I have not done much in the way of winter chores outdoors. There’s cutting back the ornamental grasses left to do, as well as pruning trees and roses, but I still have lots of time for that. My focus for this month is spending lots of time indoors working on some projects that I had put on the “back burner” some time ago. It feels so good to finally be pursuing these interests again.

One of my favorite meals in winter is soup and stews – –  so easy to make, healthy, and as comforting as a homemade quilt. I love that while I’m busy working (playing) on my projects, the house is filled with the savory aromas of dinner.

Today, I’m sharing three delicious, wintry soups that I’ve recently made. Hope there is one that appeals to you and your family. Enjoy!

Southwest Beef Chili with Corn

From Real Simple magazine

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

2 carrots, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

1 poblano or bell pepper, chopped

1/2 lb. ground beef

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

2 cans (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed

1 Tablespoon chili powder

kosher salt and pepper

1/2 cup corn kernals

1/2 cup grated cheddar

2 scallions, sliced

Directions:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium high-heat. Add the carrots, onion, and poblano and cook, stirring for 3 minutes. Add the beef and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it is no longer pink.

2. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until it is slightly darkened, 1 minute. Add the beans, chili powder, 3 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Simmer over medium heat until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.

3. Stir in the corn. Divide among bowls and top with cheddar and scallions. 

Cioppino

From Best Loved Slow Cooker Recipes

Ingredients:

1 lb. cod, halibut, or any firm fleshed white fish, cubed

1 cup mushrooms, sliced

2 carrots, sliced

1 onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (14 ounces) beef broth

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

7 ounces cooked clams

1/2 pound cooked shrimp

6 ounces cooked crab meat

minced parsley

Directions:

  1. Combine fish pieces, mushrooms, carrots, onion, bell pepper, garlic, tomato sauce, broth, salt, black pepper and oregano in slow cooker. Cover; cook on low 10 -12 hours.
  2. Turn slow cooker to high. Add clams, shrimp, and crabmeat. Cover; cook 15 – 30 minutes or until seafood is heated through. NOTE: This type of seafood is delicate and overcooks easily, becoming tough and rubbery, so cook only long enough for foods to be done. Garnish with chopped parsley before serving.Mexican Chicken and Dumplings

From Sunset magazine (I copied this recipe out of the magazine quite a few years ago and was not able to find this particular recipe in their online database).

Ingredients:

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 green bell pepper, rinsed, stemmed, seeded, and diced

1 clove garlic, peeled and minced

3 lbs. boneless skinless chicken breasts

1 can (15 ounces) chicken broth

1 can (14 ounces) Mexican style stewed tomatoes

1 can (10 ounces) red enchilada sauce

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons chopped jalapeno chilies

3 Tablespoons butter, melted

3/4 cup milk

Directions:

  1. Pour oil into a 5 – 6 qt pan (I used an electric skillet) over medium-high heat; when hot, add onion, bell pepper, and garlic and stir often, 5 – 7 minutes.

2. Add broth, tomatoes, enchilada sauce, and chicken to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and jalapeños.  In a small bowl, whisk butter into milk; stir into flour mixture until well blended. Drop batter in tablespoon portions into simmering chicken mixture; cover and simmer gently until dumplings are cooked all the way through (cut to test), 10 – 12 minutes. At this time I also added about a cup of frozen corn to the pan (not in original recipe).

4. Ladle chicken, dumplings, and sauce into bowls and serve immediately.

Gentle Days of January

Hello and welcome to the gentle days of January! After all of the hustle and bustle of November and December I’m thriving on these slow, quiet days. You’ll find me mostly in my happy, little house working on organizing, cleaning, and writing; in general I’m catching up on projects and hobbies that haven’t gotten much attention lately. Dinners are made in the crock pot. Oh, January does feel so cozy, so hygge-good.

Our still-mild winter season is allowing me to put down the home project du jour for a bit, leash up my sweet furry companion and get out in nature regularly. All of these heart rock treasures were found during one morning hike recently.

I’m wishing you the gift of a cozy, quiet, heart filled January too!