Okay, now what…Start again, Be happy!

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“Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open…”

Whoops, forgot the warm cream for my cafe’…be right back…left the tray in the kitchen.

…sunny disposition, fresh attitude, welcoming spirit, warm reception, distinctive style, unexpectedly refined, soothing mix, vintage haven…                  FullSizeRender(17)

Sounds like you or your home or your garden…any of the phrases or words?? Certainly could…have you made your home an inviting haven?

 

Winter Comfort…With the days short and nights long, I find this month the perfect time to tackle a few projects while savoring the memories of the hectic holidays past. It’s when I enjoy and actually crave the soul-cleansing efforts and the comfort of fires and candlelight, the flavors of homemade soup and fresh-baked bread. I use this month to refresh, redefine, revive, catch up on tax paperwork, restore some order to my house and garden and regroup emotionally. Nothing seems to be where it belongs…or where I want it to be…so I begin to tear apart closets and cupboards and even turn over the soil in a few herb beds in the garden on warmish days! Ah, and it feels so good to be working toward an end goal…Carl always said I could be busy in a broom closet!

Sunny disposition…what says it better than lemon fresh, lemon yellow, lemon zest, lemon curd, lemon meringue pie, Limoncello, lemonade, lemon chicken, lemon bars and so on…Lemons are bursting with taste and color and can be used for cooking, cleaning and healing. In cooking they are team players as well as soloists…from a strong presence in Hollandaise,  to a must for a gin and tonic, and with fish, lemon is a flavor enhancer. The diversity of lemons far exceeds what one would expect when first introduced to this fragrant yellow gem…from skin care to cooking to kitchen cleanser to produce preserver, to its antibacterial and healing health benefits, lemons are one of life’s necessities. Even the peels have numerous benefits…one of the least known is throwing lemon peels on a burning fire to get rid of that old fireplace odor…candied-lemon-0965

Something else…Candied Lemon Peel

1 1/2 cups of thin lemon peel with pith removed

1 cup sugar

2 3/4 cups water

Bring peel and 2 cups water to a boil and cook for 30 minutes on LOW heat…stirring a few times! Strain and then: Bring to boil 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water, add lemon peel and boil gently for 15 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment, preheat oven to 175. Strain lemon peel and cool. Toss with 1/4 cup sugar, place peel on baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. When done and dry to touch, store in airtight container.

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Appearing now…winter honeysuckle/ fragrant honeysuckle, Lonicera fragantissima, left, is a flowering shrub, one of the most fragrant blooming in late winter to early spring. The creamy white flowers pop out in rows all over the branches. This is a very fast growing shrub, usually evergreen in southern climates, that makes an excellent hedge or specimen plant. The foliage is rounded and blue-ish green in color, grows 6′-8′ tall with an arching form to branches and blooms usually turn to red berries in summer…great food for the birds, especially when used in a wildlife garden. This is a very strong branched shrub, grows quickly, tolerates cold temps and is content with very little watering…extremely easy to root. DO NOT prune this gorgeous shrub, leave it to grow in its natural shape. If you need to control for any reason, just a bit of “pick-pruning” is the best solution.

FullSizeRender(15)Closeup, right, shows blooms before leaves have fully  budded out again in a cooler climate. I have this shrub growing next to an Autumn Damask old garden rose by the back porch…but, it would also be nice growing near a door or gate where the scent can be easily enjoyed. This shrub typically blooms in early February, but in my garden as you can see, this year, with crazy warm temps for several weeks, it thought winter was ending so it bloomed in early January. Stems are also nice to cut and bring into the home where partially-open buds will continue to open and offer fragrance.

And, very soon...Few winter-fragrant shrubs are as well known as the viburnums, with strong, sweetly scented blooms that easily make cold winter days more bearable. There are many varieties of viburnums offering different sizes, shapes, and bloom types as well as being deciduous or evergreen. Any viburnum should be a welcome shrub in your garden, and especially so if you find a spot near a path so that their fragrance can be appreciated as you walk by. While designing a landscape, I typically plan for a good path near fragrant shrubs almost always including viburnums whether as an accent or hedge or focal point in the design. Other fragrant winter shrubs to consider…winter sweet, witch hazel, mahonias, and Daphnes…depending on your location, there are many more!!

Gardens rich in fragrance have a quality that so captivates the mind that they are among the most memorable…

Collecting…FullSizeRender(4)something different, samplers…In the past, young girls made samplers to learn the alphabet, express an old adage, bible verse, observation truth, or often a proverb…and for many, to simply perfect their sewing skills. Not to mention it filled a great deal of time sitting by the fireplace during a winter day! Most samplers have a naive quality that usually tells the story of who made them. Samplers today no longer have the great appeal for collecting as they once did…but I find them fascinating and nostalgic especially when displayed in groups with appropriate accents. In a way, the samplers were a precursor to all the canvas signs, plaques, and painted boards filled with clever and inspirational quotes you find in the “art” department of HOME stores.

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Warm thoughts for winter…Rising star, with their frivolous and sublime texture, it’s high time souffles got the spotlight again! Not that hard to make but the key to achieving good results…the quality of the eggs…fresh is best! Look for farm and pasture raised chicken eggs, you’ll pay more but…And, chilly whites are hard to whisk so bring them and all other ingredients to room temperature. DO NOT PEEK AT THE SOUFFLE WHILE IN THE OVEN…CAN BE A FATAL FLOP ! So many recipes are available…you can look up on food network…I especially like Julia’s and Ina Garten’s. A favorite place to stop while in Dallas…RISE…serving many different souffles from savory to sweet, and surprisingly fast service. I love their salad dressing…a hint of maple in the oil & vinegar base. But my favorite thing to do while waiting for a table…shop the French market for fascinating vintage kitchen accouterments…

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Dressed for the garden…out walking with Holly, dappled sunlight filtering through the bare trees…seed heads covered in snowy frost sparkle like precious gems. The new Formosa purple azaleas I planted in the front circle are doing very well…should be rather “smashing” when they begin blooming along with the red ones this spring! The frais des boise patch has been cleaned, plants divided and pine straw laid on the soil…ready for the appearance of the blooms and then tiny sweet fruit in a few weeks. Iris and day lilies have also been divided and replanted in new spots along with some special fragrant white daffodils I found at Brent & Becky’s Bulbs…Kristen Pritchard knows all, so see her when making selections!

Love my new boots…really keep my feet warm while walking in the snow…and the busy “bees” are exquisite!

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So for now…work, eat, play, dig, walk, and be happy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspiration Alert…or, a few light bulb moments!

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Pssst…honk if you love it when a great…or so you think… idea pops into your head! Of course it happens to me all the time. 🙂 And then, in a flash, it’s gone…unless I write it down. So many ideas and ‘flashes of brilliance’ happen while out walking or driving so I’ve taken to carrying a small notebook and pen to jot down some words of reminder…’course, when trying to make sense of my notes I realize my superb phrasing, or so I thought, was gone. Not to mention the hazzards of trying to write while driving!! What to do? What everyone with a “Smartphone” does…look for an APP…and there it was. I downloaded the app ‘AudioMemos’ and am ecstatic with this new “plaything”.

New Year, New Story…no resolutions!! Not ready to just sit by the fire with the seed catalogs just yet. I must keep on being…helpful, happy, less hefty…and, continue to eat healthy and with my new fitbit follow-thru with my pledge to walk an average of 7,600 plus steps a day! For the last few years…since both hip replacements made it so much easier and painfree…I had been walking at least a mile or two everyday but now I have a new way to track… AND, make sure Holly gets plenty of exercise, too! I use the App…Walk for a Dog, too!

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Color in the Winter Landscape…Okay, well choose your own colors and get busy painting and making some of these delightful feeders! I just think this idea is so clever…and you’re recycling, too. I would opt to use just slightly larger cans so the squirrels can get inside and swing…Arrrgh! I even give them corn on the cob to snack on and they still refuse to leave the birdseed alone. Where’s that airgun Carl had??

Afternoon Delight…I can’t think of a nicer way to spend a bright, sunny, wintry late afternoon than wrapping up  and going for a long walk with Holly B. Collie! Then returning as the light begins to fade, to see the house with its smiling windows lit up in the distance, shaking off my Wellies and walking into the living room with a fire lit in the fireplace. Adding a few more logs to get the flame roaring…I decide between hot tea and a nice glass of red wine…well wine is very good for you!

photo(16)On the rise…While out walking, the bread I had mixed earlier was sitting in an old yellowware bowl on the hearth covered with a linen dishcloth, slowly rising in the warmth of the log fire. Usually I prefer to make wholegrain bread but today I decided to fall back on an old recipe for French bread that for years I made once a week. The fun part was the first rise and then braiding while mixing butter into each braid…ah, the fragrance and tenderness of the loaf as I pulled apart warm pieces…With a bit of cheese and a glass of hearty red wine…heaven!

It may be cold outside…but you can warm yourself up with a bit of digging in the garden, preparing a new vegetable and herb area or possibly adding more garden planting beds. It’s good to prepare a bed ready for spring planting when there’s not much else to do…but do not dig if the soil is waterlogged. Backbreaking, messy work it would be and it doesn’t do the soil any good either. You’ll end up damaging the structure of the soil. Just pick a nice sunny, dry day and get on with the planning prep…if you don’t already have one, think about starting an asparagus bed. Also a good time to turn over the compost pile and watch it steam…if it doesn’t, speed up the process by adding some molasses or sugar or cottonseed meal to get those microbes feeding and burning up material!

FullSizeRender(1)Blooming in my yard right nowIMG_1895(1)

Daphne to the left…small, extremely fragrant blooms on an evergreen shrub I usually keep in a terra cotta pot…

Winter/White honeysuckle on the right…has grown to over 6′ tall in my garden from just a tiny one gallon plant.

Both are delightfully fragrant and catches you off guard… wondering as you walk by just what that delightful scent might be coming from, given the cold winter weather…

 

 

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Something bold, useful, shiny and bright for the garden…using and old sunlamp or poultry light base, turn it into this brilliant idea for the garden…a bit of sparkle and whimsy hanging from a tree. Easy to make, lovely to see and if done just right, delightful as a chime, too.

 

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Found this on a website and just had to share, such a clever way to use old objects to feed the birds!

 

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Winter white for the dining table…simple and elegant way to dress your table for a winter’s evening dinner party. Another possibility, if you prefer color, is using blooming rosemary and few berries from evergreens to add color to your table…

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been remiss in writing for the last few weeks…my promise to myself is to do better this year. From Holly and me…warm wishes and many hugs in hopes you will stay cozy and warm…even if you are in Florida!! So go bake some bread!!

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