Saturday, September 13, 2014

Blackberry moscow mule

Blackberries! The berry season is still booming, but summer is winding down, so this week's Saturday Sipper celebrates some of these sweet gems. Big and juicy, blackberries are delicious when smashed with sugar and combined with a Moscow Mule.

1 cup or so of blackberries
1-2 tablespoons sugar 
3 shots Vodka  
1 can of ginger beer
6 blackberries and 2 mint sprigs for garnishing

In a large bowl muddle blackberries, sugar and vodka until berries are mashed and smooth. Set aside. Fill 2 tall glass with ice and fill each glass halfway with ginger beer. Tilt glass and gently pour in blackberry mixture until glass is full. Garnish with a skewer of the additional blackberries and a sprig of mint. Sip slowly, and saver these last few weeks of summer.

Makes two berry-licious cocktails!

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nightshade madness

Behold—Nightshade Solanum lycopersicum, or what is more commonly known as the popular backyard tomato plant. This time of year I can pick a bucket of tomatoes like this about every two to three days. Too much all at once—it's utter madness! To me the smaller tomatoes are like precious jewels—rubies, emeralds, and  yellow diamonds.

These "plate paintings" were created after eating one of the juiciest BLT sandwiches ever, made with one of my Brandywine tomatoes. Enjoyed only a few times in summer, these BLTs are truly a seasonal experience. Oh how I'll pine for these home-grown tomatoes on snowy winter days.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Strawberry gin smash

This sweet and fizzy Saturday Sipper, just the right thing on these dwindling summer days. What is it about strawberries that conjure up memories of being barefoot in the grass?

3 ounces gin
2 teaspoons sugar
juice from half a lime
6 fresh strawberries (4 sliced, two left whole) 
club soda
2 lime wedges for garnish

Makes two smashing cocktails!

In a bowl or glass, muddle 4 strawberries with 2 tsp. of sugar and 1/2 cup of club soda to dissolve the sugar. (alternatively, you can make and chill a simple syrup beforehand). Strain the strawberry solids and discard, but distribute the luscious pink strawberry liquid between two glasses filled with ice. Add the  juice of a 1/4 lime into each glass, and add the gin. Top with a splash of club soda and garnish each glass with a strawberry and wedge of lime.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

Dinner plate dahlia

I planted my dahlia bulbs a little late this season, but they are making up for it in size… this really IS a dinner plate dahlia! The name of it is Kelvin Floodlight. Below the dahlia is in an arrangement with some hydrangea leaves and yellow striped hakonechloa grass.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Enchanting hummingbirds

A color plate illustration from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Nature
(1899), showing a variety of hummingbirds.  

Hummingbirds are magical, spiritual, and ethereal little creatures. It's a treat to see them in our gardens, stopping for a sip of nectar by our blooming wisterias or butterfly bushes. They zip here... hovering in place with their fluttering wings moving in a figure-eight pattern... and then they zip there. They move so quickly that sometimes I feels though I have only just imagined them.

Humming Bird

I can imagine, in some otherworld
Primeval-dumb, far back
In that most awful stillness, that only gasped and hummed,
Humming-birds raced down the avenues.
Before anything had a soul,
While life was a heave of Matter, half inanimate,
This little bit chipped off in brilliance
And went whizzing through the slow, vast, succulent stems.
I believe there were no flowers, then,
In the world where the humming-bird flashed ahead of creation.
I believe he pierced the slow vegetable veins with his long beak.
Probably he was big
As mosses, and little lizards, they say were once big.
Probably he was a jabbing, terrifying monster.
We look at him through the wrong end of the long telescope of Time,
Luckily for us.

by D.H. Lawrence (from Birds, Beasts and Flowers, 1923)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer afternoon

This is my kind of Sunday afternoon… lounging in a shady nook in the yard, sipping spicy Bloody Mary, and reading a great book about Hemingway, his first wife Hadley, and their wild days in Paris.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Cucumber lime cooler

Got cucumbers? I know you do. Your cucumber patch has probably gone wild, just like mine has. Cukes are pretty good for you, and darn refreshing too, so this week's Saturday Sipper is a wonderfully refreshing drink that uses up some of those surplus cucumbers.

1/2 large cucumber (or two small pickling cukes), unpeeled
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about two)
1 + 1/2 tablespoons honey 
2 ounces vodka
5 fresh mint leaves
two mint sprigs for garnishing

Makes two minty fresh cocktails!

Place all the ingredients into your blender and whirl away until smooth. Pour into two glasses and garnish with a big sprig of mint.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Color inspiration—sunflowers

Ah! Sunflower

Ah Sunflower, weary of time, 
Who countest the steps of the sun; 
Seeking after that sweet golden clime 
Where the traveller's journey is done; 

Where the Youth pined away with desire, 
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow, 
Arise from their graves, and aspire 
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

—William Blake

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A prolific patch of happy

A prolific patch of purple coneflowers in my side garden is a happy sight indeed—and the bees love them!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A little Ludwig van

We have a tradition in late August to pull the lounge chairs into a shady spot, crank up the outside speakers, and tune into the radio playing live at Tanglewood, whose last concert of every year is Beethoven's ninth symphony. We've been to Tanglewood many times, and have seen this choral masterpiece performed, but it's much less crowded in our back yard. Drinks and nibbles are always a part of this ritual of course, and here we have chilled Prosecco, a variety of cheeses, some crusty bread, and local fruits. The best peaches of the season were from nearby Brooksby Farm.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Leland Palmer

You've heard of the Arnold Palmer, haven't you—half lemonade and half iced tea? Well This week's Saturday Sipper celebrates Arnold's twisted relative from David Lynch's 'Twin Peaks' fame—the Leland Palmer. It's a bit complicated with loads of ingredients, and you must make a syrup and chill well before mixing the drink, but it's super refreshing and well worth the effort. This cocktail is straight from Bon Appétit magazine.


1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup hot water
3 cups freshly brewed jasmine tea, cooled
3/4 cup gin
3/4 cup limoncello
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 cup chilled club soda
Ice cubes
6 lemon slices (for garnish)

To make the Leland Palmer syrup base Stir honey and 1/2 cup hot water in small bowl until honey dissolves. Cool completely. Combine honey water, jasmine tea, gin, limoncello, lemon juice, and grapefruit juice in large jar and chill for several hours. This is the Leland Palmer syrup—enough for 6 drinks.

To make the Leland Palmer drinks— Fill two glasses with ice and add (1/6th of) the Leland Palmer syrup to each glass, then top with club soda and garnish with a lemon wheel or wedge.  

Makes two twisted Leland Palmer cocktails!

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


One or two wild things usually pop up from our compost that we put throughout the gardens. Sometimes it's a tomato, sometimes it's a flower, and sometimes it's a mystery for a while. When I saw the greens on this plant I was hoping that it was going to be a pumpkin, but it turned out to be an ornamental gourd. (emphasis on mental.) The runners on this fellah must be 25 feet long, so I have been calling it (cue the dramatic music here) Gourd-zilla. Run wild, run free Gourd-zilla. Just do your thing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Opera costumes

Opera Costumes from the time of Marie Antoinette
in the late 1770’s. Gorgeousness!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Happy birthday Mom!

Here is my incredibly amazing mom on her 80th birthday. 
She is in a 1934 Ford—the year she was born!
My cousin Bill refurbed this classic car.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Pauli's punch!

At my mother's 80th birthday party today we served a "welcome drink" called Pauli's punch. (Pauli is short for her name, Pauline.) The drink was made with Hpnotiq, a French liqueur made with cognac and fruit juices. We added rum to give a little extra kick, lots of lime juice to cut all that sweetness, and some club soda to add a little fizz, because let's face it, even at 80 Pauli has pazazz!!

2 oz Hpnotiq liqueur
1/4 lime wedge, squeezed 
1 oz white rum
club soda
lime wedge for garnishing

In a large glass, mix Hpnotiq with rum and the squeezed lime juice. Fill two ice-filled glasses with this mix until 3/4 of the way up the glass, then top off with the club soda. Garnish with lime.

Makes two punchy cocktails!

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Color inspiration—pea pods

To see more colors, click on the red "color inspirationlabel below.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Purple loosestrife + goldenrod

A curved split-rail fence curves along a field of purple loosetrife and goldenrod on my street in Hamilton. Dan took this photo the other day on a morning walk. I think there are all sorts of other wildflowers in this field, milk weed pods, and snapdragons. All just doing their own thing on a lovely summer day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Gorgeous portrait–Lauren Bacall

Lauren Bacall  1924-2014 

Lauren Bacall—one of the last living Hollywood legends—died yesterday. This gorgeous portrait of her shows off her youthful beauty. She turned heads with those big green eyes set wide apart on her face, those lips, and that hair!  She was sassy, sultry, and sexy with a husky voice and a lanky figure, but somehow, when her head was tilted down and her eyes were looking up, she was irresistibly adorable too. And so many films! My favorite of hers is probably How to Marry a Millionaire… I'm embarrassed confess how many times I've actually seen it….Twenty?… Thirty? I'm also a fan of Key Largo, Designing Woman, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express. Most recently she voiced the character an old mouse in the charming English version of the animated French film  Ernest & Celestine. I like that she was always a straight shooter, saying exactly what was on her mind. Take for example that famous line she cooed to future husband Humphrey Bogart in To Have and Have Not...

You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?
You just put your lips together and blow.

Cue the wolf whistle, and rest in peace 'Slim.'

Click on the gorgeous portraits label below for more gorgeousness!

Monday, August 11, 2014

You alone will have the stars

O Captain! My Captain!…

R.I.P. Robin William  

You - you alone will have the stars 
as no one else has them…
In one of the stars I shall be living. 
In one of them I shall be laughing. 
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, 
when you look at the sky at night…
You - only you - will have stars that can laugh.

—Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

+ + +

If you haven't ever read
Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, you should.
And if you haven't reread it lately, do it soon.
What is essential truly is invisible to the eye.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Pickle for a Nickel, and other cucumber stories

My cucumber patch has gone wild! I grow the little pickling cukes instead of  their bigger cousins because I think they are crunchier... especially when they are picked real small. Even some of the ones in the photo above were too big for my liking, like that big fellah. The small cukes have a tender skin, a bumpy texture, and a killer crunch—and they actually snap when bitten. Z-snap! 

I suppose you are wondering about the title of this post? Well, pickling cucumbers always remind me of the pickles my mom made when we were little—gigantic jars of them, made with fresh dill from the garden—and that memory always reminds me of the book "A Pickle for a Nickel," that I had when I was even younger. Must find a copy of that book.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Cleopatra

This week's Saturday Sipper may seem a little girly, but don't shy away guys, it's still a great summer drink. It's named after Cleopatra because she believed that rose petals were an aphrodisiac. Amor, amor!

The Egyptian Rose—known for its many petals—was the one that Cleopatra used to entice Mark Antony. Apparently Cleo covered the floors of her palace, and of course, in her boudoir and most especially around her bed. Rumor has it that the fresh rose petals were a foot and a half deep, and even the sails of Cleopatra's royal barge were drenched in rose water. So how could Mark Antony not succumb to the seductive minx? Try this drink and see what happens.

2 oz gin (of your choice)
2 drops rose water
pink lemonade
roses for garnishing

Fill two glasses with ice and add an ounce of gin into to each. Add 1 drop of rose water to each glass... You do have some, don't you?! Fill up the rest of the glass with pink lemonade (yes, I suppose plan yellow lemonade would do in a pinch, but really...) then garnish with roses or rose petals. I'm sure that Cleopatra would approve.

Makes two rosy cocktails!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Blue + white

Blue and white fabric makes me smile.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Lillet cocktail

The Saturday Sipper this week is one of the most refreshing summer cocktails ever—the Lillet cocktail. Lillet blanc is a delicious French apéritif wine made with a blend of white wines and liqueurs made from Spanish and Moroccan orange peels. Click here to read the history of Lillet—it's quite fascinating. Mmmm—this cocktail is light with the essence of orange, and not too boozy tasting. 

2 oz Lillet blanc
2-3 drops of orange bitters
prosecco or champagne
orange slice for garnishing

Fill two glasses with ice and add an ounce of Lillet into to each. Add 2-3 drops of the orange bitters (I use Stirring's brand), then fill glass with the prosecco or champagne. Stir and add a slice of orange and maybe a pretty nasturtium flower, and then sip and dream of being in the South of France.

Makes two trés refreshing Lillet cocktails


Read more about Lillet by clicking here!

You may also like the Lillet Basil Cocktail

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Thursday, July 31, 2014


Reflections of irises and water hyacinths dance on the surface of the water in our fish pond. That's two of our "Freds" swimming around. Several Japanese fishing floats bob and migrate around the pond, giving "the Jers" (short for "the Jeremiahs," our bullfrogs) a nice place to perch.

Click on the links below to read more about our fish and fish pond!