ALFRESCO…or, in the open air.

lavender2   Enjoying delicious food out in the garden is one of the great joys of nice weather…OR, a picnic in a field of lavender, lunch by the pool or on the patio, crunchy snacks by a cool mountain stream, sandwiches at the beach, dinner on the porch…all high light the pleasures of food combined with the enjoyment of a natural setting.

On those glorious days of every season…meals taken alfresco really do seem to taste better! However, there is no better time of year than summer for creating wonderful meals…the choice of fabulously fresh ingredients…fruits, vegetables and herbs…is almost limitless. Freshly picked fruit epitomizes the beauty of summer, from popping berries one after another while picking to biting into a warm peach, allowing the juice to run down your chin and the stickiness to stay until you run the hose over the fruits and your hands…

                                                      On an early summer morning…juicy berries…often topped with a dollop of Greek yogurt… provide a prelude to scrambled eggs with goat cheese and chopped herbs. fruitOne of my favorite ways to enjoy scrambled eggs…’EGGS IN PITA POCKETS’

Easy to make…split pita, warm them and stuff with scrambled eggs and goat cheese…sometimes I go crazy and to the pocket of eggs I add some crumbled uncured, nitrate-free bacon!

For me, a leisurely breakfast with great cups of espresso out on the porch is almost the PERFECT way to begin my day …’course there was that time in Provence where we sat overlooking a meadow and the…oh, stop!

As the sun travels higher in the sky…lunch calls for a  drink of chilled mint tea and very light snack: sliced tomatoes on flat bread with fresh basil, olive oil and cracked pepper…or, Focaccia alla Caprese!tomatoes

Shadows lengthen and the sun falls behind the trees, a cool breeze stirs the fragrance of phlox by the path IMG_0506and oh, is that my lovely wine waiting for me…As moon shadows slant across the yard, a perfect summer day ends with dinner alfresco on the back porch: Risotto with fresh lump crabmeat followed by juicy figs picked from the tree by the chicken yard…some walnuts and more wine, of course!!

 

SIMPLE PLEASURES, things to bake…Oh, dear…just saw an episode of Barefoot Contessa, she made what looked like, in her kitchen, the most deliciously fabulous Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits I must try right now. Hummm,  seem very simple to make and they really were. So now, after stuffing myself with biscuits [3]…couldn’t resist…dripping in real butter…I must say this recipe is sublime! The remainder I put in the freezer…temptation stay behind, please, it does already!

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This shows my summer phlox in full glory…wish you could reach in and sniff the fragrance. Hot pink phlox, blooms all summer to fall, with black-eyed-Susans…cannot beat the combination for bloom time and fragrance.

 IMG_0845This MOON FLOWER, in bloom at dusk…this  vine is quickly winding its way up the post by the chicken yard. Lemony scented blooms attract night moths. Intertwined with Heirloom Morning Glory vine, it offers an early morning treat for hummers just before the deep blue morning glory buds unfurl for the day.

aa91d1b9-73c0-465b-918b-032e47d51e2c Making sugar water everyday now! Take a look at the window feeder, 2 female hummingbirds are sipping and another…a male…is patiently waiting for a turn. I find it fascinating to watch the aerial antics as they jockey for place at the feeder…all day long. Seeing them at work gives me such a good feeling to know how hard their journey to Central America is each year. Imagine, non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico.

acb5d38d-99ad-464f-a7b8-9ec9297b7fcd Simple pleasures to make…A very charming tiered cake stand using your own collected pieces or some you find at HOMEGOODS! Easy to make:  use dessert plates, tea cups and liqueur glasses glued in formation to create your own unique version.s & p

                                           Another recycle creation, use cleaned oyster shells as  salt & pepper holders for the table.

9d56abea-a636-47d6-9d81-f304929bb69fMy sweet girl Holly, the Border Collie, walks with me everyday. We walk the country road as all along the way she sniffs every bush, shrub, and trail…usually a deer or coyote had been by…till she has exhausted her nose and my legs…HERE, she wears her t-shirt in style…it says: WE, THE PEOPLE and has drawings of creators/signers of the DECLARATION of INDEPENDENCE!

       Gee, wonder if those biscuits are frozen already…? HUMMMMM!

Early August…garden visitors…

Roses, day lilies, Black-eyed-Susans, phlox and lavender are everywhere…I’m crazy about them!

They are such everblooming and fragrant treasures…such quintessential garden elements…

roses in basket

Gathering roses to bring inside, such a treat to make little fragrant bouquets to sit on tables throughout the house…walking from room-to-room allows me to detect a deliciously differing scent from each little bundle of vintage blossoms. While strolling the garden, I always carry my sturdy handmade English trug for holding flowers and my clippings are done with the FELCOs as shown…and leather rose gloves!

The huge butterfly bushes that anchor my gardens provide an ongoing source of nectar for them as well as a glimpse of one of my favorite visitors…butterflies!  They lazily float from bloom to bloom, hovering long enough to sip and then move on for another taste. We often use the phrase…”flit about like a butterfly…” and I know people who do this everyday. I used to think how difficult it must be to jump from task to task while keeping a train of thought…but the older I get, the more I realize how simple it is…

Happiness isn’t being cheerful all the time: it’s being interested in things…finding out more about something, learning how to appreciate something better,  incorporating SOMETHING NEW that fits with what you already have.

            EVERY FLOWER IS A SOUL BLOSSOMING IN NATURE…

Walking through parts of my garden, the rhythm changes just as the butterflies flit: some areas feel somewhat controlled, while in others the plant groupings wave, flow and flutter! This cottage-style garden is a wonderful habitat…these old-fashioned flowers are pollen and nectar rich which attract birds, bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and many beneficial insects…along with a few pesky critters as well! But there is enough to go around for all…Everyday I discover a new visitor, even if it is a tomato horn worm on my holly of all places…I just pick it off and put it on the bird screen feeder! The hummers empty the feeders so fast I have to fill them with clear sugar-water everyday. I just keep a container of my homemade “nectar”in the fridge so I don’t have to boil water and make the syrup as often as they drain the window feeder.

WITH SUMMER, outdoor entertaining is often in full swing…the question is always what to serve guests. Food and wine go together and there are some pairings that naturally occur when planning, such as a crisp Pinot Grigio with homemade pizza or fresh pasta…drinks affect taste, AND, as a rule of thumb, lighter dishes require lighter wines…grilled fish with a Sauterne or Chardonnay and the rest is down to simple basics. HOWEVER, before you begin any meal, try toasting a perfect summer’s day with a glass of esteemed fizz…champagne…or one of my year round frugal favorites: Prosecco…ideally served with a bit of salty bruschetta, roasted almonds, olives and such…or as all of you know, my lovely favorite summertime aperitif: La Vieille Ferme Rose from Provence…

sugar            SIMPLE PLEASURES…I love playing around with scented and flavored sugars…any type of sugar, other than coconut, will easily absorb all manner of fragrance and taste. Rose, lemon, lavender and vanilla…all easy to do. As I rarely use sugar except for baking…I prefer Stevia in tea…I typically prefer and enjoy making different sugars as gifts. Of course for me, part of the fun is finding a great container to hold the sugar. I search for lovely crystal [ or not] jars or bottles not only to show off the sugar but I believe glass is a better medium for storage. When baking I typically use vanilla sugar to give more flavor to the batter mixture, especially poundcake…

For rose sugar I use my dried organic rose petals mixed into white organic sugar.

For lavender flavor I just mix dried buds into the sugar. For vanilla, a real bean in the jar is all you need…and it lasts for years.

For zesty lemon I use dried lemon verbena or sometimes I make Meyer lemon sugar: Squeeze a whole lemon over about a cup of very fine sugar in a bowl…stir till evenly moist. Scatter on a baking sheet, cover with cheesecloth or a dishtowel and place somewhere warm overnight to dry out. Peel/grate some of zest from lemon rind, add to sugar and store the mixture in an airtight jar. [Keep the rind zest mixed into the sugar…]

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So by now, you all know how much I LOVE lavender…the planting and  growing, the garden filled with blooms abuzz, the harvesting…and, the exquisite fragrance. AND, you also know from previous posts how I use lavender to clean, to bake, to flavor lemonade…in sachets as a moth preventative and drawer scent.

There are so many uses for lavender in its various forms…but one I really enjoy at least twice a week…soaking my feet in warm water along with some crushed lavender stems and a few drops of lavender essential oil.  Another good practice for me…keeping a small pillow on my bed, filled with lavender buds…this aids in relaxation and usually helps me to drift off to sleep.

Speaking of Sleep…a good night’s sleep is often hard to find…a new study has found that BRIGHT lamps ‘on’ in the evening suppresses the production of melatonin, a sleep hormone. SO, try dimming the lights or use lower watt bulbs or turn just one lamp on in the room if watching television…

READ THIS IN A EUROPEAN MAGAZINE…to clean a bottle or jar having been used to store oil or a greasy liquid, fill it with some WARM coffee grounds, add warm water. Let sit for a while, then shake well…pour this mixture on shrubs or compost pile instead of in trash…reuse, recycle!

GARDEN TIP: Remember to take photos of your garden as the season progresses…AND, Refill watering cans after use so they are always ready the next time a container plant seems a bit ‘wilty’…

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