Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Tale of Two Trees

Things didn't go well last week when I baked pies. So badly that I didn't photograph the pumpkin pies. The pecan pie was perfect, but I was out of the mood to take photos. Besides I shared the pies last year with you. 

As I was putting the second pumpkin pie into the oven, I spilled the filling all over the pre heated oven door. I attempted to wipe up the spill, but it was already cooked on--in seconds at 425 degrees F. So I closed the oven door and let the pies bake. And bake they did. I cut out sweet, little leaves to place around the crust on one pie, adhering them with an egg wash. Let's just say that it did not go well because the crust burned. I took the pie to Thanksgiving dinner anyway. Hey. Sometimes things go wrong. I knew that the filling was good. There was so much food along with the pecan pie and the other pumpkin pie that only got really brown. Not sure what is going on with my oven.

So What to Do?

I mixed up a simple scrub of baking soda and water and applied it to the burned on filling. I had to keep scrubbing and wetting and scrubbing, and finally I had to use a razor blade scraper to get the tough stuff off.

There it is. All shiny and clean. I wonder what sort of damage I can when I start Christmas baking?

Thanksgiving dinner was wonderful. Jen and her family hosted, cooking a wonderful meal.

When we arrived, the girls were busy carrying on a family tradition, making the Watergate salad. Their great grandma Violet (the Head Gardener's mother always brought the Watergate salad--you know the one: a package of pistachio pudding, cool whip, mini marshmallows, and canned pineapple). Each girl took her turn, until one complained that her turn was too short, ending the group project. Kids.

Did I mention that it was snowing? It snowed all day, making every thing look really pretty. After dinner, the kids layered on their winter clothes and went to enjoy the snow. 

And now on to Christmas. Have you begun your Christmas decorating? I haven't. I do have the Christmas tree in place now.


I won't get around to decorating it until next week end. I am not in any particular hurry. As a kid, the tree always went up on my birthday, the 20th and came down on mom's birthday, the 31st. 

This is the staging area downstairs. I have drug all most the decorations out of closet in the basement.  This year I am not going to do the pink and gold tree; instead, I am going use all of the heirloom decorations, using the traditional red and green Christmas color.

See that box? Well, now we get to the Tale of Two Trees.

I wrote last week about buying the new tree and getting is set up. As I took a small package of screws out of the box, I had that strange deja vu that we all get from time to time then continued to set up the tree.

When I went downstairs the other day there was a tree stand on top of the pile of boxes just like the one that the new tree came with. The deja vu began to form a memory of parking my SUV in front of Hobby Lobby in Ft. Collin and a brown haired young woman poking a long white box into the back of the vehicle. Did I buy a new tree last year? Yep. There it is. It was buried under the pile of boxes. Now I have two trees. I used to decorate two trees at the old house, but I don't have the room here. Or do I? I'll let you know.

I am literally on the edge of chair. The Denver Broncos are playing the New England Patriots. Payton Manning is out injured with the backup quarter back playing. It is snowing like crazy in Denver and the game is tied in over-time. 

I can't bare to watch.

This is the last week of school at UNC. I cannot believe it. I will meet with my students for the last time on Tuesday when they will turn in their final essay. I will be in my office Thursday so that students can come see me and again on Wednesday and Friday during their final exam periods when they will come pick up their graded essay and their semester grades. Then it will be over. Wow. It went fast.

Have a wonderful week, my friends. Be sure to visit Judith at Mosaic Monday.

Thanks so much for stopping by. 

Oh. Broncos win in overtime. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Counting Down

Are my American friends busy this week preparing for their Thanksgiving celebration? Perhaps you are keeping it simple, baking a turkey breast or perhaps going to else where for a fine feast. This year Jen and her family are hosting Thanksgiving dinner. I am wondering just how early the texting and Face Time will begin tomorrow as she starts her preparations, wondering how to do this or that. 

I began my part for the dinner today: the cranberry relish. I keep it very simple: 
  • a bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 apple, Fuji this year
  • 1 naval orange
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • Truvia instead of sugar to taste
I give it a few rounds in the food processor,

until it is nice and chunky.

I really should have made a double batch, but I had only one bag of berries. I love it on pancakes or just by itself.

The Head Gardener has a great friend, Jim, a widower. He brought his boat over today to store it in the barn for the winter. He loves my pound cake. I'd send it to work with the Head Gardener and the men whom he worked with went pretty nuts over the cake, taking way too big pieces and hiding them. Jim was the worst offender. Now each both men are retired. They have coffee every week and go fishing together. Buddies. I usually bake him a cake for Christmas, but he is having his family for Thanksgiving and the HG thought he needed pound cake, so I baked him a cake. 

Tomorrow I will bake the pumpkin and pecan pies. When I tell my friends that I am baking pies, their eyes widen and then they look down as they admit that they will buy theirs frozen or fresh from the super market. I like baking pies. Took me years to figure out how to make a decent crust. I thank Martha Stewart for teaching me. My hair dresser, Barb, shared yesterday her mother's secret for the perfect pie crust: the dough must be kept cold. 
Martha's recipe:
  • 2 1/2 cups flour --Barb's mom chilled her flour
  • 2 sticks of butter, cold--Barb's mom used half lard and half butter
  • 1/2 cup iced water
  • pinch of salt
Barb's mom would crumble the ingredients together then chill them more. The secret, Barb says, to a flaky crust is the marbling of the butter and lard in the crust. The more marbling, the flakier the crust which requires keeping the dough really cold.

I mix my crust in the food processor then divide it in half and chill it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Then I roll it out. I'll show you tomorrow.

I'll fire up this baby, a pretty fancy appliance that the modern woman no doubt takes very much for granted. It has all of the modern features: regular bake or convection bake, temperature probe that I use for roasts, and other neat features. It is sleek and pretty and modern.  I found the flour sack Tea Towel at my favorite gift store. I had to buy it because it brings back those glorious memories of my grandfather's '51 red Chevy pick up. We'd load up in it and head to the mountain cabin where we would cut Christmas trees. I won't actually use the towel; I just like to look at it.

I'll get lost in a reverie of sweet Thanksgiving memories as I roll out the crusts. I will remember my mother, flour all over the front of her sweat shirt, the red linoleum counter white with flaky flour crumbs as she'd push the rolling pin back and forth over the dough to make a perfect circle. After we had grown up, the folks purchased a mountain home in a little coal mining town Oak Creek not far from Steamboat Springs. Once they had the little house, we spent all of our holidays there. The first house they bought was just two rooms, a kitchen and a bedroom. I remember the first Thanksgiving there, wondering how she was going to roast a turkey. 

Well, look at this bad boy. Mom would stoke up a wood fire and poke that turkey in the oven and roast it to perfection. The little house heated up pretty fast, so the doors were thrown wide open, letting the snow drift in. 

I don't know why we have hung on to the old stove. It sits under the eves behind the barn, along with other stuff.

 I always imagined the young housewife who had this stove brand new. How proud she must have been. It was in pristine condition while my mom had it, but it had some rough handling over the years. Now rusty with cracked porcelain, it only fosters my fond memories and spider webs in the warming oven. I have yet to roast a turkey as fine as my mom's in my 21st century modern oven. 

The Christmas tree is up, but that is all. I purchased a new one this year after donating my lighted trees last year because I was tired of messing with the lights. This one is not pre-lit. I have decorated in pink for years, but this year I will keep the red truck theme of years gone by and use all of the family heirloom decorations from my grandmother's tree, my mother's, and the HG's grandmother and mom's trees. I haven't used those since we moved to the Garden Spot. I miss them. I need to see them again.

There are other Christmas  preparations going on, too. I have been sewing for the 18" dolls that all of the little girls on my gift lift have. I have six dresses to sew. Meet my own doll--I haven't named her. I found her at a thrift store for only $5. She is a Madame Alexander and is in perfect condition. I can't imagine who would donate such a lovely doll. Right now she serves as my model.



I found the pattern here: Susan Karmar. com/ It is a free download. I had to adjust the pattern size, which I did in Microsoft Word. I had to reduce it 1 inch scale, so I just drug the jpeg image from the corner of the image from 6.5 to 5.5 to get the perfect size. I have four more to sew up and the finish work on these two. I dug through my stash of fabric to find pieces of material that would work. I had to get a bit creative to make all of the scraps work.

Other happenings: Boone got groomed. I wanted photos of his session, but by the time I got to the mobile dog bath, he was already inside. He gets a bath and toe nails clipped. I am sure that as soon as he is turned loose he goes out and rolls in the horse pen.

It has been cold enough to freeze the water features along with the weeds and leaves that the strong winds blow in. What a mess.

Lesson never learned: take the pump out before the water freezes.

Smile, dear.

The week ended on a sad note as we said our final farewell to the HG's dad who passed the end of August. Almost larger than life, he stood well over 6 feet and had a heart just as big. A farmer most of his life, he raised his family with a strong work ethic, good values, and he was a kind and generous man. We will miss him. 

Time to edit, proofread, and publish. (I am watching the Dancing With the Stars Finale. Who will win? Bindi, the crocodile hunter's daughter or Alex, the hero? Bindi is the better dance and such a sweet girl and  Alex is just special. (he and his two other friends brought down a terrorist on a French train, saving many lives)).

Happy Thanksgiving. May your turkey be tender and juicy and your pies perfect. 

As we bless our meal, we will pray for peace and give thanks for all of our blessings, and as I think of you, I thank you for being a special blessing in my life. 

Monday, November 16, 2015


I am working my way toward bedtime, though I am not in much of a hurry. I am behind with the blog. I missed a whole week. So I will take you back a week, mostly because this week was so uneventful. We did have snow. A bit. Not even note worthy, despite the big build up the weather people gave it: "fast moving," "potentially dangerous," "high winds," "blizzard." For us none of the a fore mentioned happened. Two inches at most. I opened up my university email only to find that the school was on a delayed schedule for snow removal with the 8 AM class canceled.


"No Way."

Fortunately I do not teach Wednesdays, but for those professors who had their classes arbitrarily canceled for snow removal, they were not happy. I am speculating that there is a new person in charge of snow removal. Maybe one who worked for public school system that cancels an entire district when the threat of a huge storm looms. (exaggerating, of course); however, university campuses seldom close, let alone go with the late start favor for those who want to sleep in. Okay. So yeah. Greeley had more snow, 6 inches, but not worth canceling class or delayed start. Wimpy. As I told my students on Thursday: "You put your boots on and slog through the snow.

More snow this week. Another worrisome, dangerous storm headed our way on Tuesday. I'd better check my email first to make sure my 11:00 class isn't canceled. We don't have many days of class left. I can't afford to miss any.

I do have some photos to share. The week I missed in review:

Happy Birthday

Elinore's birthday was Friday. Her mother goes to great effort to create a fantasy birthday party for the each girl. She made the palm tree, the shell mobile, and the ship's mast from old fence posts scrounged from our pile of left-overs. She made the octopus out of cheese cloth and starch. The decorations didn't go to waste because she used them to redecorate Ellie's bedroom with the mermaid nautical theme.

Even the food carried through the mermaid theme with banana dolphins and  yellow pepper octopus. Ellie doesn't like sweets, so her cake was was unfrosted with layers of fresh fruit. So yummy.

She has grown up so much. While her sister is a dancer, Elinore loves to create art work. Right now she is working with air dry clay and loves to do bead work. She loves her pet rabbit, Peter, who shares her room.

 A Life Saved
My favorite chair sits with its back toward the patio door. I heard a rather heavy thud on the door, knowing immediately that a bird had hit its glass pane. As I opened the patio door, I caught a fleeting glimpse of large bird swooping away. A hawk. On the deck floor lay an unconscious flicker. I gathered it up and placed it on the patio table, sure that it would die.

I am not one to take gruesome photos, so once the bird began to recover, I took these two photos. It actually took the little guy all afternoon to recover from flying into the door. I do believe that he was fleeing from one of the local hawks that regularly patrols the area.

The flicker begins to slowly opens his eyes. I would check on him frequently, petting him, stroking him gently. My last effort to pet him halted when he took sturdy flight for the nearest tree. I really held out little hope he would recover.

Jack Frost

Jack Frost has been courting Autumn the last few days, leaving his artwork behind. 

The woolly thyme that covers the ground in the front courtyard succumbed to Jack's handy work, looking all lacy and pretty. Autumn had to be impressed.

The little water garden had a thin layer of crystal clear ice cover it it. We need to drain the pond and get the pump out before it freezes hard, like tomorrow since we are supposed to have blizzard II.

The roses are done for sure now. I gave them a nice feeding a few weeks ago to help them winter over.

Ice crystals and roses just don't go together, do they?

Even my little supermarket bargain roses bloomed hardily at the end of the season, only to have their lives suspended when Jack came to visit.

Monarda dead heads, pretty with ice.

Jack just had to cast his spell on the rose hips, too. Red in the garden this time year is so welcome to break up the otherwise drab landscape.

So, there you are. Life has a peaceful, easy feeling (to borrow from my favorite rock 'n rollers The Eagles). The Head Gardener has cleaned up the vegetable garden, tiling it yesterday. It is all clean now ready for next spring. Jack can dance on the bare canvas all he wants.

Enjoy your week.

Linking up with Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday. Join us. It's fun.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Roses Again, More Trees, and a Birthday Boy

The days shorten with the sun setting sooner each day. We turned our clocks back this morning. I always forget to reset them the night before. The weather here remains mild, cooler, but lots of sun. Jack Frost has been slinking around in the early wee hours of morning, leaving his tell-tale icy blanket covering the lawn and garden. So far he hasn't done much damage. The roses are the always the last to go, so last week when the weather predictors cautioned that the temperatures would sink below freezing, I went out just before bed to snip off the last of the roses.

Veteran's Pride. What a grand rose. Using my iPhone, I photographed her outside placing her on the thin ice that covered the bird bath. That's how cold it got that night. I had the roses in the house a couple of days before I took this photo, hoping that they would open up more.

I was quite surprised this time with the color of the red. Out front where she lives, I am never able to get the red the right tone in the photo.

Isn't she just grand?

Inside  I caught First Prize basking in the late afternoon sun as it filtered through the kitchen window.

Again using my iPhone, I took macros of this delicate pink rose. There were just two blooms left to pick.

I am still impressed with that little camera on the iPhone and it is an older phone, too.

The roses outside aren't done yet. They show new growth with new buds forming. I doubt they will be able to bloom again. I'll let you know. It is hard to tell them good-bye for the winter, isn't it?

With our mild weather, the fall colors continue to astound us. This week's mosaic shows the beautiful Autumn Blaze Maples trees at the university. The first photo I shared with you a couple of weeks ago in the parking lot across the street from my university office. Now in the trees are in their full color glory. Once again, using my phone, I was able to capture them.

Finally The Very Bad Dog celebrated his birthday yesterday. No, I didn't bake him a cake as his daddy tried to get me to do. Instead, I took his photo for Facebook and the blog.

See how nicely he stays while I take his photo. I followed him as he went about his morning. He is a busy boy. He runs like the wind, looks for mice in very odd places--here a pipe in the wall in the barn--, he helps feed the hens, and does his share of work when it's time to feed the horses. When he is not trying to dig Mo the cat out from under the bed, tearing up the bedding and other destructive little antics (like chewing up socks), he keeps us entertained. 

Surrendered by his breeder at 4 months along with 4 other siblings to a small vet clinic in Grant, Nebraska (a teeny prairie town), he got lucky when the Head Gardener picked him from a photo on the clinic's web site. Handful that he is, he is a sweet, happy boy that keeps us company.

So that's the way it is here at the Garden Spot. this week. I'll be linking with Lavender Cottage for Mosaic Monday tomorrow. Thanks, Judith, for hosting.

Thanks to you for visiting. 

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...