Six on Saturday – Texture in the Winter Garden – February 1, 2020

So foggy this morning it was after 9 when I ventured out. And I was glad I did because look what I found — the first hellebore blooms. The evergreen helebore leaves provide texture in my winter garden. The blooms are a bonus.

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2. I love this crepe myrtle bark.

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3. The silver maples have wonderful craggy bark with lichens and moss at the soil’s edge.

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4. Contrasting textures of Hollywood juniper in the background, and rhododendron to the right. In the forefront a euonymus (Silver Queen? it looks more white than in the photo) and liriope. You can see the fog still hanging in the air.

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5. A mahonia that I stuck in a back corner of the garden is doing just fine. It provides some texture against the solidago stems which need to be cut back.

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6. And finally..the hope of spring… buds on some daffodils.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, this foggy February morning, as I found textures in the winter garden. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

Six on Saturday – Eye Candy – January 18, 2020

After unseasonably mild temperatures and some rain, today is frigid – in the twenties. I realize that is balmy compared to the places where two of my children live (Montana and Colorado), but I am staying inside and looking for some of my favorite photos from last summer to share. No commentary, just eye candy.

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That’s my Six on Saturday, a collection of six pretty photos. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

 

 

Write on Wednesday – Christmas Dinner Disasters – January 7, 2020

My writing partner, Laura Ambler, and I met for lunch at Olive Garden yesterday. Their soup and salad combo is really good and a booth gave us privacy to discuss a new writing project.

With two produced Christmas themed plays we have a tiny wedge into a niche. So we were brainstorming about other possible Christmas play ideas. One of them involved all the kinds of family drama that can happen at the turkey laden table. 

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Laura told me about a couple she knows. On Christmas day the wife had a terrible migraine so took some medicine that will put her to sleep for a couple of hours. But before she leaves the kitchen she instructs her husband about how to cook the turkey. When he smells something burning he realizes he has set the stove to clean and now the oven door is locked.  That topped the Christmas dinner my elderly mother put the turkey in and set the oven to broil.

But things can be worse than incinerated turkey or a less than perfect meal. The uncle who always gets drunk and starts a political fight. The football game that eclipses the dinner you’ve been working on for days? The relatives you see once a year and that’s too often. Sometimes there is tragedy. Death does not take off on Christmas day.

What Christmas disaster stories does your family tell? Give me your story. It might make it into a new play.

Write on Wednesday – Welcome 2020 with Gløgg – January 1, 2020

My very best wishes to one and all for a happy, prosperous and healthy New Year.

For years my parents had an annual New Year’s Day party where they served Gløgg, a Norwegian mulled wine. I didn’t continue this tradition, but my brother and sister-in-law did for many years.  Recently I found a notebook with my mother’s recipes and notations for many years of that party. This was from 1963.

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For each party Mom annotated the amount of shrimp, how many Swedish meatballs she made and what she put on the veggie tray.  I don’t know if you could buy a pre-made tray then. She always made her own and one of the items was sliced spiced apples…they were bright red and came in a jar. The 1963 New Year’s Day party had the notation: “Invited 120 people. Half showed up. Lousy weather. Ice. Parking difficult. First guests arrived at 4 promptly. All gone by 7:45.” That year she tripled the recipe below. I suppose they bottled the leftovers which would have lasted a long time. My folks weren’t big drinkers.

That party was in Bethesda a few weeks after I was married for the first time — a week after President John Kennedy was assassinated. I had moved with my new husband to Pennsylvania, so I wasn’t at that party. However, I do remember these get togethers as far back as South Bend, Indiana when my dad taught at Notre Dame.

Here is the recipe for Gløgg.

  • 1 gallon port wine
  • 2 cups raisins
  • 24 whole cloves
  • 2 dozen blanched almonds
  • 1 stick whole cinnamon
  • 2 dozen cardamom
  • 2 cups sugar caramelized (Be careful doing this. Very hot.)
  • 2 cups boiling water added to sugar when browned
  • 1 quart rye whiskey

Brown sugar, add water. Cook wine and spices together for a few minutes. Put sugar mixture in wine. Add whisky. Serve hot. One recipe serves approximately 30 people. Serve sour, tart and meats with gløgg. No sweets or cakes.

If Gløgg doesn’t tempt you, here is my recipe for my Crack Pecans, otherwise called cinnamon sugared pecans. Eat them on a salad or by the handful.

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Be advised that checking for crunch in the final stages is where an addiction begins. Consider yourself warned.

Mala’s Crack Pecans (from Cookingclassy.com website who stole it from allrecipes.com where I made tweaks)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pecan halves (4 cups)
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • ½ tsp vanilla (up to 1 tbsp)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (can be half white, half brown)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon (can add ½ tsp allspice, 1/8 tsp cayenne for kick)
  • ½ tsp salt (can be up to 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt)

Directions

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, vigorously whisk egg white with water and vanilla until very frothy. In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add pecans to egg white mixture and toss until evenly coated. Pour half of the sugar mixture over pecans and toss several times, then add remaining sugar mixture and toss until evenly coated. Pour coated pecans over a parchment paper lined backing sheet and spread into an even layer. Bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Allow to cool, then store in an airtight container.

Notes: If you double this recipe you could keep the cinnamon sugar amounts the same. It’s plenty of sweet. If you do this, make it in two batches using two sheet pans. Four cups is just the right amount for one sheet pan. The nuts won’t get crunchy if there are too many on the sheet at one time.

I use sheet pans with a silpat liner.  You can also use parchment paper.The sheet pan has sides so the nuts don’t fall out.

The final 15 minutes in the oven is crucial to make them crunchy. I checked them after what I thought was the final time and they still weren’t dry in the middle, so I put them in for another 15 minutes. The first two times you stir them they will be sticky. They may need a little additional time in the oven. Just keep checking for crunch. I like adding that little bit of cayenne for a little heat. If you’re planning to use them as an appetizer with cheese and fruit, you could add more salt as well.

 

Six on Saturday – First Snow – December 14, 2019

When I went out on Wednesday morning to go to my 7am yoga class, my car was covered with snow. I’d thought I had heard it rain overnight, but it must have changed to snow at some point. The roads were just wet but the white stuff was a surprise.  Only the hard core people were at yoga that morning. The rest must have seen their cars and decided to stay home.

By the time I got out for some photos much of the snow had melted, but in my attempts to record the snow I found some other interesting things in the garden.

I’m doing this post early as I will be in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee on Friday night to see that state’s premier of The Santa Diaries at the Encore Theatre. Laura Ambler and I are flying in on Friday afternoon and coming home Saturday morning. A whirlwind trip. The flight to Nashville is just an hour. It will take us longer to drive from here to the airport.

And on another writing note the manuscripts for all three books have been sent out for interior formatting. ISBNs have been assigned for print and eBooks and covers are in progress. The first two previously published books will be republished under my name instead of a pen name. The new titles are: Circle of Secrets: Caribbean Romance Trilogy Book 1, Circle of Magic: Caribbean Romance Trilogy Book 2, and Circle of Spirits: Caribbean Romance Trilogy Book 3. Anticipated pub date is April, 2020. I’ll keep you posted.

Here are six things in my garden mid-week.

  1. The snow took me by surprise. Temps were in the upper 50’s yesterday and we’d had rain for several days. You can see standing water along the garden beds. There was more snow when I went out at 6:30 but it was too dark for pictures. I missed the chance to have my garden guy blow out the gutters. Now all is a wet mess that will require a stepladder and my hands in waterproof gloves. My husband spots me.

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2. These small hollies should be big enough in a couple of years to take cuttings for holiday decorations. I’m a sucker for pops of yellow in my garden. The tags are still on these but it was too cold to root around looking for them.

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3. The snow weighted down some of the grasses, but I am entranced with the color they add to an otherwise dreary December garden.

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4. If I hadn’t gone out to take photos, I would have missed the intense color of the Sheffield mum foliage. Wow! I didn’t remember that it did that.

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5. All the trees are now bare including the small leafed maple (left of the chimney) that was featured in my post two weeks ago. I love the lace created by the bare branches against the blue sky.

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6. And finally a harbinger of Spring. Daffodils are peaking through and seed catalogs are arriving daily.

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That’s my Six-on-Saturday for mid-December in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Our first snow. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

#lovemygarden   #mid-atlantic garden   #fall colors  #Six-on-Saturday  #malaburt

Six on Saturday – A Closer Look – November 16, 2019

One of my neighbors in the back has a section of their yard the is behind the solid tall fence around their pool. It’s kind of a no-man’s land although they do keep it mowed. I took time away from book publishing details today and walked around looking for things to photograph when I saw a bunch of odd dark shapes back there. Occasionally some of my black plastic pots get blown into that area so I took a closer look.

  1. It was plastic duck decoys. About thirty of them. This is the time of year when the Canada geese are leaving flying south, so V’s of honking geese are not uncommon. I don’t know why all the decoys are there unless the neighbors are trying to attract geese. A mystery!

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2. I moved two clumps of amsonia hubrichtii mid-summer. They both looked dead, but a closer look at one of the clumps shows some shoots coming up. I hope there will be more.

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3. I don’t understand why the stems of the red twig dogwood only turn red in the fall. They will be impressive against a snowfall. I noticed some deer browsing last week. Rats with hooves.

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4. My weeping Japanese maple is showing color. I am amazed that this tree is now five feet across and about three feet tall. I bought a rooted twig at the Philadelphia Flower Show twenty odd years ago and brought the small tree with me when we moved to the Eastern Shore. It is supremely happy where I planted it and has rewarded me by becoming a feature in my garden.

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5. Another confused azalea. This plant has lots of buds ready to open. There won’t be many flowers come spring.

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6. A sugar maple just across the property line in another neighbor’s yard always puts on a beautiful show.  Borrowed landscape! Leaves on my silver maples just turn brown before they fall off, although I am grateful for the mulch they provide.

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That’s my Six-on-Saturday for mid-November in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

#lovemygarden   #mid-atlantic garden   #fall colors  #Six-on-Saturday  #malaburt

Six on Saturday – First Frost – November 9, 2019

We had a light frost last night. The coleus in the front window boxes need to be pulled out. I’ll stick evergreen trimmings in the soil for the winter. As I walked around the garden this morning I was surprised to see some confused plants.

  1. But first I want to showcase a gift my friend, Carol M, brought me yesterday.  A spray of sorghum heads with a turkey. I put it on the lattice in the back so I could see it from the house, although I may move it to one of the older, weathered lattices where there will be more contrast. I’ll still be able to see it in that location. I had no idea sorghum heads had so many colors.

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2. On to a couple of confused plants. An azalea (not one of the fall re-bloomers) has put out a couple of flowers. The leaves show an infestation of azalea lace bug. I’ll have to go on line to see if I can treat the plant now or need to wait till spring. This particular pest is epidemic in my azaleas.

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3. A bud on a clematis will not survive a hard freeze. And I’m hoping to bring that pretty white geranium in for the winter. I think there are a couple of plants in that big pot so I’ll need to repot one into a container I can lift.

4.  Frozen water in the Jan Kirsch avocado is stunning with fallen leaves. Wrapping the concrete sculpture for the winter has moved to the top of the to-do list.

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5. The petals have fallen from the Sheffield mums, but the remaining centers are bright yellow, providing a needed pop of color in the fall garden. The Autumn Joy sedum heads continue to darken into tones of burgundy.

 

6. I need to brag a little about the large area where the raised beds were removed. I seeded, and watered and watered and watered and hoped. Fingers crossed for it being really settled in next spring.

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An update on my writing life. The third book in my Caribbean romance trilogy is back from the proofer. Now I am working on finalizing titles and choosing a cover concept. Publication sometime next spring.

That’s my Six on Saturday, this week photos of my garden. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

#lovemygarden