Sunday, September 28, 2014

Contained madness

My very last container combo of the season always uses these funky chili peepers, that come in many colors, but of course the yellow speaks to me. I grew the golden gourds you see clustered next to the pot, and nestled inside foliage of English ivy, variegated jasmine (that's my best guess). The thick spiky plant in the center is a variegated snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii’).

Here is the plant a month or so later, after the frost has nipped 
the leaves and the chili's have ripened to red and orange.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Horse, hounds and fox

Lightness of Being  4 x 12

At just 4 x 12", this is a very small canvas for me, but it started out being just a little warm up sketch. Once it's popped into a thick gold frame it will beef it up. (See below!) Available for sale.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wicked awesome clam chowdaah


What a fabulous stretch of weather we've had! Summer has just been eclipsed by autumn, so we still have sunny and warm days, but the mercury dips at night making it perfect weather for soups. Dan made a batch of his wicked awesome clam chowdaah last week. I still had some borage blossoms in the garden to garnish it with, along with some snips of chives and crushed pink peppercorns. He uses a great clam chowder recipe that we found in Saveur Magazine years ago. The crispy salt pork cracklins that we sprinkle on top really add nice flavor.


Clam chowder (from Saveur Magazine)

5 dozen littleneck clams or 4 1⁄2 dozen steamer clams
1⁄4 lb. salt pork, diced
3 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced
3 tbsp. flour
3 lbs. red potatoes, peeled and cut into 3⁄4" cubes
3 cups milk
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp. butter
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Scrub clams under cold running water to remove grit and sand. Discard any that don't close when tapped. Place clams in a large pot with 3 cups cold water. Cover, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and steam until shells open; check frequently and remove clams with tongs as they open, allowing up to 5 minutes for littlenecks and about 1 minute for steamers. Discard any that don't open. Pour cooking liquid through a fine sieve and set aside.

Cook salt pork in a large pot over medium-low heat until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove meat, drain on paper towels, and set aside to use as garnish. Add onions to rendered fat and cook over low heat until translucent, about 20 minutes.

Remove clams from shells. If using steamers, cut off and discard necks (the black part). Coarsely chop clams, cover, and set aside.

Add flour to onions, stir for 1 minute, then add potatoes, reserved clam cooking liquid, and enough water to cover. Increase heat to medium, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Add clams, milk, and cream to pot. Simmer (do not boil) until just heated through, about 5 minutes. (Clams will be rubbery if overcooked.) Stir in butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with reserved salt pork. (I also add chopped chives and crushed pink peppercorns.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A rainbow of tomatoes

Ahhh, those tomatoes sandwiches of summer…let me count the ways. A BLT perhaps? A tomato, cheese and mayo sandwich on whole grain bread? Or how about this twist?… an open-faced sandwich that shows off the beautiful rainbow colors that tomatoes offer up. We enjoyed this beauty made with our home-grown tomatoes, combined with mozzarella cheese, basil, a dash of sea salt, a crank of freshly ground black pepper, and all anointed with olive oil. Wish you were here...

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Stamped + embossed

We really don't make books like we used to. Just look at this magnificent gold embossed book! Not just because of the fairy on the cover, this book is truly enchanting and magical. I confess, I am a bibliomaniac or bibliophile, and never, ever will own a Kindle to read my books in. I love the smell of old books (hardcover of course!), and my legs grow weak when I think of books with stamped and embossed cloth binding, gilt edges, bookplates, with head and tail pieces, colored plates,  folding plates, vellum and glassine separator pages, and exotic marbled end papers. Are these really from a bygone era? Is the hardcover book really dead? I love flipping the book pages, and even love how they look on a bookshelf. Swoon. I gravitate towards these old books like moths to a flame, and I'm in a mossy sort of mood today, so here are some more beautiful book covers from years ago.

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!

Click to see more Saturday Sippers!

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.

Click to see more Saturday Sippers!

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.