Italian Lemon Poundcake

Record rain. Heavily damaged roads and main highways. Flooding. Broken levees. It’s certainly been a wild winter here in Northern California after years of drought, to say the least.

In between rain storms I’m out in the yard as much as I can to begin to work on a few projects. Blooming right now and brightening these long February days during this very rainy winter are the Hellebores, Daphne, Primroses, and Daffodils. A love note from heaven was waiting for me to find it as I was doing yard work recently. Imagine the smile it put on my face!Outside, rain pounds on the roof, winds howl, and the creek swells. Inside, lemon pound cake bakes in the oven, filling the house with its sweet aroma.

Italian Lemon Poundcake

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

4 Tablespoons lemon juice

zest of two lemons

1 teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 300 degreesSift flour, baking powder, and salt, and set aside. In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in the sour cream, lemon juice, vanilla, and lemon zest.Mix half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix in the buttermilk and then add in the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the flour disappears. Pour the cake batter in a bundt pan that has been generously sprayed with baking spray.Bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Turn the cake over on a cake platter.

Spread half of the lemon glaze over the warm cake so that the glaze can soak into the cake. Let the cake cool completely and drizzle the remaining glaze over the cake.

Lemon Glaze

1/4 cup butter, softened

1 1/2 cup powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice at room temperature

Cream the butter and slowly add powdered sugar and lemon juice. Beat well until the glaze is a creamy smooth consistency.Delicious!

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

It’s cold; it’s raining again, and the grey days have got me seeking comfort foods lately. I love a hot bowl of oatmeal for breakfast on a wintry morning and recently found this new-to-me twist on oatmeal online that shouted warm, cozy, and delicious and had the house smelling absolutely scrumptious! The recipe features nuts, oats, fruit and spices, is easily adaptable, and did not disappoint.

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt (or 1/2 teaspoon regular table salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 3/4 cups milk of choice (almond milk, coconut milk, or cow’s milk all work)
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons melted unsalted butter, or coconut oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ounces or 1 pint fresh fruit, divided (I used mixed berries)
  • 2 teaspoons raw sugar (optional)
  • Optional toppings for serving: yogurt, honey, whipped cream, fresh fruit or maple syrupInstructions:
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9 inch square baking dish. Once the oven has finished preheating, pour the nuts onto a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant.
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, toasted nuts, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Whisk to combine.
  • In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup or honey, egg, half of the butter or coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk until blended.
  • Reserve about 1/2 cup of the berries for topping the baked oatmeal, then arrange the remaining berries evenly over the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the fruit with the dry oat mixture, then drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats. Wiggle the baking dish to make sure the milk moves down through the oats, then gently pat down any dry oats resting on top.
  • Scatter the remaining berries across the top. Sprinkle the raw sugar on top  if you’d like some extra sweetness and crunch.
  • Bake for 42 to 47 minutes, until the top is nice and golden. Remove your baked oatmeal from the oven and let it cool for a few minutes. Drizzle the remaining melted butter on top before serving.This makes such a warm and wholesome breakfast or snack anytime. Hope you enjoy it too.

A Gathering We Go

Setting off on a nature walk in our neighborhood with two of our very young grandchildren.

Look for things Mama will like and we’ll make her a birthday present out of them. If you see anything interesting lets take a clipping of it or pick it up and put it in our pockets.How bout this if it isn’t too pokey?

Yes, my love, what a good idea.Back at home we set all of our collected treasures out on a tray with some twine and a sturdy branch and  begin to select items to tie on to the branch.

That’s it; put your finger right there while I tie the knot. Thank you. Let’s do the next one too. That’s so helpful. Let’s see, a bit of moss, some pinecones, a magnolia cone, and what else? Of course, the turkey feather, the rose hips, some twigs, and the heart rock.  Those are all great choices! Where should we put the ribbons? Oh, Mama is sure to love this! What do you think?And here, hanging from a tree branch in their backyard, positioned right outside the kitchen window, is the nature mobile. I’m sure it brings a smile to her face and brightens her day each time my daughter in law looks out the window.Happy Birthday Danielle!

Celebrating the Snow

Sierra snowpack levels and rain are way above normal here in Northern California this year and that’s cause for celebration in my book. Evidently, many others were celebrating all of the recent storms right along with us by taking a trip to snow country during the holiday weekend! A drive to Tahoe usually takes us an hour. Today it was a v-e-r-y slow two and a half hour drive.

We have a few usual spots where we like to go snowshoeing, but we got a later start on the road than usual and we found those to be too crowded. Continuing on and feeling up for an adventure, we came to Camp Richardson on the southwest side of the lake and found parking spaces available! In no time at all we were layered up and had our gear strapped on.What a sight to behold! Just look at this incredibly beautiful winter wonderland!
It felt so good to be out exploring in all of nature’s winter beauty after being cooped up from our rainy weather for so long.Through the branches is our dog, Gemma, prancing around in the snow where there’s usually sand, with Lake Tahoe just beyond.  Ahhh! Here’s a little snow heart along our pathand another amidst the tree branches! There’s so much to celebrate in life. Hope you’re finding cause to celebrate this winter as well.

Tamale Pot Pies

It’s wet out there! And the forecast includes more wild, windy and wet weather each day all week. I’m quite happy to have the time indoors to work on some projects that have been neglected for the last month or two, though, and make some comfort food recipes as well.

This afternoon I made Tamale Potpies. I didn’t have all of the ingredients called for in this recipe from Cooking Light, and so I’ve made due with what I have in my kitchen. There’s no way I’m heading to the grocery store this afternoon!

Tamale Pot Pies

Ingredients:

2 teaspoons canola oil

1 cup chopped onion

12 oz. ground chicken (I used ground pork)

1 Tablespoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon salt, divided

1 cup chopped zucchini (this was an ingredient I didn’t have)

3/4 cup corn

1 (10 ounce) can diced tomatoes and green chiles, undrained

1 (8 ounce) can unsalted tomato sauce

cooking spray

1/2 cup coarsely ground yellow cornmeal

1 1/2 cups water, divided

3 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded and divided (about 3/4 cup)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; saute 3 minutes. Add pork (or chicken); cook 3 minutes, stirring to crumble. Stir in cumin, chili powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook one minute.
  3. Add zucchini, corn, tomatoes, and tomato sauce, bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Divide meat mixture evenly among 4 (10 ounce) ramekins (or in my case, 8, 5 ounce) ramekins coated with cooking spray. Place ramekins on a jelly roll pan.
  5. Place remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Bring remaining 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Gradually add cornmeal mixture to pan; cook 3 minutes or until thickened, stirring frequently. Stir in 2 oz of cheese.
  6. Divide cornmeal mixture evenly among ramekins. Sprinkle evenly with remaining cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes or until light golden brown.Along with a green salad and black beans, this is dinner. Just perfect for a cold, rainy evening at home.

The Story of our Lives

As I’ve been putting away the Christmas decorations over the last few days I’ve come  to realize how perfectly our decorated tree tells the story of our family each year.

If I remember correctly we bought ornaments for our very first Christmas tree at Payless. Yep, it was a rainy Sunday in 1982. When my husband got off from work we went together and picked out just a few ornaments and a tree. This is one from that first year so long ago.By the next Christmas we were blessed with our first baby.And three years later, another precious baby boy joined our family.A good amount of our ornaments are family photos in mini frames and hung with ribbon.Throughout the years ornaments have been bought that represent a move to a new home, careers, interests, and now, grand babies. We’ve saved the child-made treasures from way back when, along with the ones the children would get to choose each year to commemorate a new sport or hobby they were interested in. They don’t all go up on the tree each year, but we look through them all, carefully unwrapping each and every treasure, smiling and feeling overcome with nostalgia.

A friend made this felted heart for me a few years ago,and a sweet daughter in law made this one.Gently tucked into luggage, special keepsakes are collected from our travels. This celtic cross came from a trip to Ireland.And this streetlamp with the hanging baskets of flowers was brought home from Victoria.Each one tells a story.Each one, a memory of our blessings. Each one, a snippet from our lives. My cup runneth over.

I wish you hope, health, peace and mad love in 2017. Happy New Year!

“Here’s to the end of this chapter. To all the late nights, early mornings, learnings gained and experiences shared, Here’s to love. Here’s to loss. Here’s to honoring, letting go, and transcending. Here’s to growth. Here’s to expanding. Here’s to a life with other heartbeats that would stop their world to celebrate your magic. Here’s to you, and your blank canvas. Here’s to filling it with nothing less than vibrant aliveness.”

~Nancy Alder

 

Making Merry

The last few weeks have flown by with all of the flurry of activities that December brings. There have been parties and gatherings, shopping and making, sending cards, wrapping, baking, and the decorating. Oh, the decorating!

Along with decorating the inside of our home, I do enjoy decking out our porch and other areas of our yard. The arbors and the little foot bridge across our seasonal creek gets adorned with garland or swags. I buy yards of fresh cedar garland at the nursery, but the rest of the fresh greens I use for decorating have been collected either from the yard or out on the trails with my trusty pruners and a bag for collecting. In my book, nature’s treasures make the best decorations!

A little of this,and a little of that,added to window boxes, window sills, baskets, garden pots, watering cans, and vases makes everything so festive and merry. Wishing you the warmth of home, the love of family and friends, and all the deepest joys this Christmas season.

 

Sacramento’s Capitol Park

An edifice should be constructed…satisfactory of the grandeur of the coming time … surrounded by grounds … with a beauty and luxuriousness that no other capitol can boast.”

~Governor Leland Stanford, 1863img_1899img_1890img_1848img_1878On a recent November day I spent a delightful morning with my love strolling around the grounds of the Capitol admiring the memorials, gardens, statues, fountains and trees.

Covering forty acres and spanning twelve city blocks, Capitol Park began life in 1860 as just four blocks, and from then to 1917 the remaining blocks became part of the park’s expansion projects. Since 1869 eight hundred flowering trees and shrubs have been planted, representing over two hundred native and exotic varieties.

Here’s just a glimpse of the World Peace Rose Garden in Capitol Park, still bursting with blooms in November and displaying 650 roses in over 140 varieties of colors and fragrances.img_1866img_1865img_1864In honor of Veteran’s Day two harpists played gentle melodies in front of war memorials.img_1863Many of the trees planted are dedicated to former members of staff of the California State Legislature, or to mark special anniversaries. There’s also the Moon Tree, a Coastal Redwood that began life as one seed among hundreds which orbited the moon aboard the command module of the Apollo 14 mission.

Just look at all of this tree magic.img_1855img_1856img_1860img_1873img_1869img_1868img_1867img_1880img_1877img_1891img_1893Beautiful and luxurious grounds, indeed. What a great way to spend a few hours. I think Governor Leland Stanford would be quite proud.

 

Celebrating Fall

“Autumn, the year’s last loveliest smile.” ~William Cullen Bryantimg_6534“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all” ~Stanley Horowitzimg_6443“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~Albert Camusimg_1905“Fall has always been my favorite season. The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” ~Lauren DeStefano, Witherimg_1902“No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.” ~John Donne
img_1811“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves. We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves.” ~Humbert Wolfe
img_1799“There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”~Joe L. Wheelerimg_1750“And I rose in rainy autumn and walked abroad in a shower of all my days…” ~Dylan Thomasimg_1731“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.” ~Anonymousimg_1727“I am rich today with autumn’s gold.” ~Gladys Harpimg_1657“I loved autumn, the one season of the year that God seemed to have put there just for the beauty of it.” ~Lee Maynardimg_1718“Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.” ~Samuel Butlerimg_1721“Or maybe spring is the season of love and fall the season of mad lust. Spring for flirting but fall for the untamed delicious wild thing.”~Elizabeth Cohenimg_1796“There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood- Such of manner, hint of mood; And my heart is like a rhyme, With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.” ~Bliss Carmen
img_1803“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons.” ~Jim Bishopimg_1903Wishes to all for a lovely autumn season.

Sunflower Cottage

“…But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye. For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall, you’ll find the tool and potting sheds which are the heart of all…”~Rudyard Kiplingimg_1827Here it is!img_1472Remember a few weeks ago I promised a post about my new garden shed? Welcome to Sunflower Cottage!

Wanting the paint and the style to match our home, but also wanting a bright pop of color for the door, I really don’t think it could have turned out any more perfectly.

Last fall I began looking in books, magazines and on pinterest for ideas for potting sheds. It was a bit overwhelming, but when our friend who built the structure for us started asking questions about how it would be used and what was most important to me, why then it all came together easily. Inside is a roomy potting bench, lots of shelving, and a pole to hang baskets and dry herbs from, and with the light from the two windows (three counting the window in the door) and a water source right outside the shed, I didn’t feel a need to have electricity or plumbing installed.

Here’s a bit of a peek inside.img_1526 img_1410I’m still organizing and finding the best places for everything, but I’m already so happy to be working in this charming and cozy little storybook cottage, just as I knew I would! A gardener’s dream come true, for certain!